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Salvadorans and other 'temporary' immigrants weigh what's next after the U.S. withdraws welcome mat

Nereida Moreno, Chicago Tribune on

Published in News & Features

White House chief of staff John Kelly emphasized that the program is "temporary" after visiting Haiti in June 2017, when he was still serving as the Homeland Security secretary.

"The point is not that there be a complete recovery of all ills in the country," Kelly said in an interview with The Associated Press. "The point is, whatever the event is that caused TPS to be granted -- that event is over, and they can return."

Illinois is home to about 4,073 people with temporary protected status, a fraction of the 436,869 living in the U.S.

On a recent Monday afternoon, Navarro called a meeting at Centro Romero, a community organization in the Edgewater neighborhood that serves the bulk of TPS holders in Chicago. Navarro has renewed his status there over the years and now leads a group that advocates for TPS.

The group gathered in a computer lab where children studied while their parents renewed their protected status, practiced their English skills and participated in adult education classes.

Navarro said some people are afraid to renew their status, but that the group encourages people to "follow the rules" and fight for more permanent forms of immigration relief.

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"Our country hasn't recovered from the war or the earthquakes. It's impossible to go back," Navarro said. "We need Congress to hear us."

To qualify for TPS, immigrants have to pass a background check and pay an application fee. They had to be present in the United States at the time that a TPS designation was initially made -- a provision that was created in part to address concerns that the program would lead to a surge in new immigration, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

Those who have been convicted of any felony or two or more misdemeanors in the U.S. are ineligible.

Salvadorans who fled their country's civil war and were physically present in the U.S. as of September 1990 were granted temporary protected status. Salvador was re-designated for the program because of the damage caused by two earthquakes that devastated the country in 2001.


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