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Trump administration ending protections for Salvadorans in US, but giving time for a transition

El Salvador's gang violence made it the murder capital of the world in 2015. Since about 262,000 Salvadorans have been allowed to live and work in the U.S. under a program known as temporary protected status, many fleeing violence or natural disasters, but the Trump administration appears poised to pull the plug on the arrangement. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

About 262,000 Salvadorans living in the U.S. will lose the temporary legal status that many have enjoyed for almost two decades with a decision by the Trump administration that is scheduled to be announced Monday.

The Department of Homeland Security will give Salvadorans covered by “temporary protected status” until Sept. 9, 2019, to arrange a return or, in some cases, to apply for alternative legal means of staying in the U.S., according to officials familiar with the decision who were not authorized to speak on the record.

El Salvador’s gang violence made it the murder capital of the world in 2015. Since about 262,000 Salvadorans have been allowed to live and work in the U.S. under a program known as temporary protected status, many fleeing violence or natural disasters, but the Trump administration appears poised to pull the plug on the arrangement. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Administration officials said conditions in El Salvador have improved markedly since 2001, when the Bush administration first made the special protections available in the wake of two earthquakes that devastated the small Central American country.

But advocates for the immigrants protested the decision in advance.

“The United States has yet again turned its back on its promise to provide refuge for those who face violence and persecution in their home countries,” said Oscar Chacón, executive director of Alianza Americas, a network of immigrant rights groups.

“Our government is complicit in breaking up families — nearly 275,000 U.S.-born children have a parent” who has temporary legal status, he said.

Congress created temporary status in 1990 to give the executive branch the authority to allow migrants from countries hit by natural disasters, wars or other emergencies to remain in the U.S. and work legally for a limited period of time. Trump administration officials say that because previous administrations have frequently extended the temporary stays, the program has improperly been allowed to become an all-but-permanent refuge. They have been determined to roll it back.

Last year, the Department of Homeland Security announced an end to temporary protections for Nicaraguans and Haitians.

But advocates for the Salvadorans, including close to 50,000 in California, say it is wrong to force them to return to a country suffering from high unemployment and gang violence that has given it one of the highest murder rates in the world.

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© 2018 Los Angeles Times

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.