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January 1995, Volume 2, Number 1

Salvadorans TPS to Expire

On December 2, it was announced that Temporary Protected Status or TPS for El Salvadorans will be allowed to lapse on December 31, 1994. Over 500,000 Salvadorans are believed to have come to the US during the 1980s, most illegally, when civil war killed about 70,000 people and death squads spread terror. Most Salvadoran applications for political asylum in the US during the 1980s were denied.

The 1990 IMMACT granted Salvadorans TPS in the US, which was extended by President Bush in 1992 and Clinton in 1993. The civil war in El Salvador ended in 1992, and INS Commissioner Meissner said that today the "situation in El Salvador has improved significantly and no longer serves as a basis for continuing 'temporary' asylum."

An estimated one million Salvadorans live in the United States in 1994--half in Los Angeles--meaning that one in six Salvadorans lives in the US. About half are legal immigrants. Between 90,000 and 190,000 Salvadorans are protected by the TPS which is expiring--the INS does not have more precise data.

Salvadorans who currently have work authorization will be granted automatic nine-month extensions, according to a notice published in the Federal Register on December 6, 1994. Salvadorans who apply for asylum in the US before September 1995 will be able to stay longer.

Salvadorans' asylum claims today are eligible for special due process consideration under a 1990 court case that alleged that during the 1980s the US discriminated against asylum -seekers from El Salvador and Guatemala. Less than five percent of the applications for asylum filed by Salvadorans have been granted. Some social service agencies are urging Salvadorans to request asylum in order to prolong their US stays and possibly gain permanent residence status at a future date. Under US law, aliens who have been in the US for at least seven years, have good moral character, and would face hardship if returned, can remain in the US indefinitely.

In a profile of Salvadorans in Long Island, New York, it was noted that Salvadorans are already discussing ways to stay permanently in the US, including marrying a US citizen or legal immigrant at the going rate of $3,000.

Many Salvadorans were attracted to the US by jobs that paid $5 hourly, but they expected to live at Salvadoran costs in the US. With mainstream US prices too high, they have spawned an underground economy in which medical and similar services are offered by unlicensed providers at less than half the going rates. Such "immigrant economies" are responsible for reviving turn-of-the-century institutions, such as live poultry markets in New York City.

Salvadorans in the US remit an estimated $600 million to $1 billion to their country annually, much of it to regions devastated by the civil war. The 5.4 million Salvadorans in 1992 had an average annual GNP of $1,200 per capita. Salvadoran exports in 1992 were worth $400 million, and imports were worth $1.1 billion; the gap was financed by remittances.

Commentators were divided on the whether the end of TPS was desirable. Those who favored ending TPS argued that, if TPS were extended once again, the entire concept would be in danger, since opponents could argue that TPS was simply a side door to permanent immigration. Opponents argued that the Salvadorans were truly refugees, and that US support for the Salvadoran government prevented the US from recognizing the Salvadorans in the US as legitimate refugees who should have been allowed to start their lives anew in the US. Many advocates for Salvadorans argued that there would be mass firings of persons whose work permits would expire September 30, 1995.

Doreen Carvajal, "Salvadorans Have Built a Secret Economic Network to Survive," The New York Times, December 13, 1994, B1. Santa Teresa, "Salvadorans See Future Imperiled by U.S. Immigration Move," The New York Times, December 4, 1994, A27. Patrick J. McDonnell, "A Sense Of Betrayal; Federal Decision Chills Salvadoran Refugees," Los Angeles Times, December 3, 1994 , B1. Paul Richter and Ronald J. Ostrow, "Salvadoran Asylum Program May End; Immigration: Clinton Administration Is Expected To Remove Special Refugee Status" Los Angeles Times, December 2, 1994, A3. Ashley Dunn, "'America First' Gains Ground, International Herald Tribune, December 16, 1994.