Salvadoran immigrants in Utah fear deportation after DHS ends protected status

El Salvadorian immigrants in Utah fear deportation after DHS ends protected status (Photo: MGN)

(KUTV) - Utah Immigration Attorney Aaron Tarin was busy answering phones calls Monday from panicked people who feared they’d be forced back to El Salvador after the Department of Homeland Security announced it would end their Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

“Obviously they are scared. They are wondering if ICE is going to come and get them tomorrow,” he said of the callers.

Tarin said the move by DHS, which could impact about 200,000 Salvadorans who live in the U.S., was not a surprise since the Trump Administration has also ended TPS for people from other countries including Haiti.

“The question is: who’s next?” said Tarin.

In Utah, according to a census estimate of the state’s population between 2011 and 2015, there are over 12 thousand people from El Salvador in Utah. It’s not known how many are living and working here with TPS.

TPS, according to the Department of Homeland Security, was created to give safety to people from other parts of the world, after an environmental disaster, ongoing armed conflict, or other “extraordinary or temporary” conditions.

People from El Salvador were given TPS in 2001 after deadly earthquakes ravaged that country.

DHS Secretay Kirstjen Nielsen announced Monday that since El Salvador had recovered from the earthquakes, there was no need for the TPS protection anymore. People from El Salvador with TPS are given until September to leave the country.

Mauricio Oliva Garcia, the owner of Pupuseria El Don, a restaurant in West Valley, said he is very worried for his relatives including a brother and nieces and nephews as they are living here under TPS.

He wondered what they will do.

“They can’t return to El Salvador because they don’t have family or contact with anyone there. Their lives are in the U.S.,” he said.

Garcia said he is a naturalized U.S. Citizen who came to the U.S. 30 years ago. First, he lived in Seattle, then moved to Utah about 15 years ago to be closer to family and to his Mormon community.

To him, the move to end TPS feels like a hateful act.

Tarin said the only possible way for some Salvadorans to stay after their TPS expires, is to apply for asylum but that’s a long shot and it’s expensive.

People from El Salvador might qualify for asylum if they are Mormon.

The Mormons are regarded by many in El Salvador as people who have money and that makes them a target for gangs who terrorize that country and make it very unsafe.

In response to critics who say DHS should consider El Salvador’s current state and extend TPS for Salvadorans who now have it, said the fact that the country is dangerous and in chaos, is not relevant.

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