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NEW BEDFORD — The Trump administration has ended Temporary Protected Status for people from El Salvador, a decision that affects Bristol County’s second-largest Central American community.

Helena DaSilva Hughes, executive director of the Immigrants’ Assistance Center in New Bedford, said the majority of the Salvadorans she has encountered in the Greater New Bedford area have TPS, which allows temporary legal residence for people fleeing dangerous conditions, such as a natural disaster or armed conflict. The U.S. government awarded TPS to Salvadorans after the earthquakes of 2001.

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen announced Monday that she would give people until Sept. 9, 2019, to leave.

DaSilva Hughes said 18 months is not much time for people whose jobs, homes, and families are here.

“Eighteen months for a life that you built in 18 years,” she said.

Yet she wasn’t surprised. In November, the Trump administration said it would end the same program for Haiti on July 22, 2019. The program for Honduras has been extended until July 5 of this year, but all nations with TPS seem to be “on the chopping block,” she said.

This story by Jennette Barnes first appeared in the Standard Times on Jan. 8, 2018 – HERE

Census data from the 2011-15 American Community Survey show 1,109 foreign-born people from El Salvador in Bristol County. The only larger Central American group is Guatemalans, at 1,970.

Nationally, about 200,000 people will be subject to deportation if they cannot find another legal means to stay in the country, according to the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, which condemned the decision in a press release.

“Given the dire conditions in El Salvador, which the U.S. State Department has warned Americans not to travel to, it is clear that nothing – not natural disasters, not hunger, not rampant violence – is seen as a valid justification anymore for protected status,” said the group’s executive director, Eva A. Millona, in the release. “Our government is perfectly comfortable sending longstanding, law-abiding residents into life-threatening conditions, and their U.S. citizen children as well.”

The State Department travel warning for El Salvador says the nation has one of the highest homicide levels in the world, gang activity is widespread, and extortion, robbery and assault are common.

The Department of Homeland Security said the decision was made after a review of conditions in El Salvador and whether the conditions that led to the TPS designation still exist.

“Based on careful consideration of available information, including recommendations received as part of an inter-agency consultation process, the Secretary determined that the original conditions caused by the 2001 earthquakes no longer exist,” the department said in a press release. “Thus, under the applicable statute, the current TPS designation must be terminated.”

The department said El Salvador received significant international aid after the earthquake. Schools, hospitals, and homes have been rebuilt or repaired, and money has been provided for water, sanitation, roads and other infrastructure, the department said.

This story by Jennette Barnes first appeared in the Standard Times on Jan. 8, 2018 – HERE