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Nearly 200,000 Salvadorans who've been allowed to live and work in the U.S. are now being told to leave. These immigrants have been here since at least 2001 when a pair of earthquakes devastated El Salvador. The Trump administration says it is now safe for them to go home. Immigrants' rights advocates disagree. Our coverage starts with NPR's Joel Rose.
JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: The Trump administration has ended something called temporary protected status, or TPS, for Nicaraguans and Haitians and now for Salvadorans. The program protects immigrants from being deported to countries wracked by wars or natural disasters. That's a sharp break with past administrations of both parties which repeatedly extended TPS. And it was a welcome change for Dan Stein, the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates for drastically lower levels of immigration.
DAN STEIN: It is beyond ludicrous to suggest that TPS should be extended any longer. There's simply no basis for it.
ROSE: Salvadorans are by far the biggest group of TPS recipients in the U.S., and the administration's critics say this move will be an economic shock to both countries. Salvadorans collectively send billions of dollars back to their relatives and friends in a country where many live in crushing poverty. And immigrant rights advocates say the end of TPS would also hurt communities in the U.S. where these immigrants live. Anu Joshi is with the New York Immigration Council (ph).
ANU JOSHI: TPS recipients have been here for decades. They have U.S. citizen children. They're contributing members of our economy, our communities. And to pretend like they aren't is just foolish.
ROSE: Trump administration officials said the disruptions resulting from the 2001 earthquakes, quote, "no longer exist." Officials said they did not look at other problems in El Salvador, including violent street gangs like MS-13 or widespread poverty. Anu Joshi says that's not how this program should work.
JOSHI: If you look at El Salvador as a country right now, the conditions on the ground - it warrants renewal of TPS.
ROSE: At a press conference in Manhattan, Joshi was flanked by dozens of TPS recipients, including Hugo Rodriguez (ph), who came here in 2000 and now works as a cook at a steakhouse on Long Island where he supports two children who are U.S. citizens. Rodriguez says TPS is what made that possible.
HUGO RODRIGUEZ: When I get the TPS, I say, now I can do it. It was the beginning for me to the American dream. If they cancel the TPS, I lose my job.
ROSE: Homeland security officials say TPS protections for Salvadorans won't expire until September of 2019 to allow an orderly transition for people like Hugo Rodriguez. In the meantime, advocates are hoping to save them from deportation. They want Congress to grant some kind of permanent legal status before TPS runs out. Joel Rose, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.