But the Trump administration is committed to controlling legal and illegal immigration, particularly by ending the protections for 800,000 undocumented immigrant youth, known as Dreamers, starting in March unless Congress grants them legal status sooner.
Despite its name, says the administration, the Temporary Protected Status program became an almost permanent benefit for hundreds of thousands of people.
The end of protection for Salvadorans, Haitians and Nicaraguans leaves less than 100,000 people in the program, known as TPS, which was enacted by President George Bush in 1990.
Provides temporary legal status and authorization of work for people who are already in the United States, whether they entered legally or not, from countries affected by armed conflicts, natural disasters or other conflicts. The secretary of national security decides when a country deserves the designation and can renew it for six, 12 or 18 months.
There is no limit to the number of extensions a country can receive. Countries that have received and then lost designation in the past include Bosnia and Herzegovina, which endured a civil war in the 1990s, and Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia during the Ebola crisis. El Salvador was one of the first countries in the program due to its civil war; that designation expired in 1994.
The administration is giving the Salvadorans in the program until September 2019 to put their affairs in order. After that, they will no longer have permission to remain in the country, which will force them to make a heartbreaking decision.
Mrs. Lagunas said she would remain illegally in the United States, risking arrest and deportation. But she would lose her 12-year job without the work permit that comes with protection. Your family would lose health insurance and other benefits.
"There's nothing to go back to in El Salvador," he said, speaking in Spanish. "The infrastructure may be better now, but the country is not in a position to receive us."
With his protected status, Carlos Jiron, another Salvadoran, started a small contracting business and won offers for big jobs, even to paint federal buildings in the Washington area.
"We have built a life here," said Jiron, 41, who lives with his wife and two US-born children in a four-bedroom house they bought in Springfield, Virginia.
He will have to decide whether to take his children to El Salvador, where he says they would not maximize their potential and face security threats; leave them with guardians in the United States; or remain in the country at risk of being arrested and deported as one of the millions of undocumented immigrants.
His 14-year-old daughter, Tania, a fan of Disney movies and hip-hop music, said she could not understand starting over in El Salvador. "This is where I was born and I'm supposed to be raised," he said.
Temporary protections were granted to Salvadorans who were in the United States in March 2001 after two earthquakes in January and February of that year killed more than 1,000 people and destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes. Over the next 15 years, the administrations of George W. Bush and Obama extended the protections several times.
In 2016, the last time, the government cited several factors, such as drought, poverty and widespread gang violence in El Salvador, as reasons to keep the protections in place.
El Salvador has been rebuilt since the earthquakes. But violence – San Salvador, the capital, is considered one of the most dangerous cities on Earth – has inhibited investment and job creation, and caused the flight of tens of thousands of people. The country's economy experienced the slowest growth in Central America in 2016, according to the World Bank.
But Trump administration officials say the only criterion the government should consider is whether the original reason for the designation, in this case, earthquake damage – still exists. The secretary of national security decided that the damage had been repaired 17 years later, so the protections should end.
Some legislators have introduced legislation to allow people with temporary protection to stay in the United States permanently. At the same time, the instability in Venezuela has led some members of the Florida Congress to request protection status for Venezuelans.
The government of El Salvador had asked the Trump administration to renew the designation for its citizens in the United States, citing drought and other factors. The money sent home from Salvadorans abroad is a lifeline for many in the country, where four out of every 10 households subsist below the poverty line, according to the World Bank. In 2016, the 4,600 million dollars remitted from abroad, mainly from the United States, represented 17% of the country's economy.
The United States Chamber of Commerce and immigrant advocacy organizations also urged the administration to expand protection.  Donald M. Kerwin Jr., executive director of the Center for Migration Studies, said the rescission of Salvadorans' protection is a "disconcerting ideological decision that is extraordinarily destructive in every way." They are deeply rooted and integrated in the USA. UU "
In Houston, the removal of the state of protection would aggravate a labor shortage that already delays repairs after Hurricane Harvey, said Stan Marek, executive director of Marek Brothers, a large construction company with offices through Texas and Atlanta: At least 29 Salvadorans on their payroll are recipients of the program.
"During the recovery from a hurricane, I need them especially," Marek said. "If they lose their status, I have to finish."
But Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors immigration restrictions, said the Trump administration was correctly fulfilling the original intent of the program.
"We have to put the & # 39 ; T & # 39; in TPS, "he said." It has to be temporary. This has been too long. "
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