Trump officials reach deal to extend work permits for El Salvador immigrants

Trump officials reach deal to extend work permits for El Salvador immigrants
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The Trump administration has reached an agreement with El Salvador to extend work permits for 250,000 Salvadoran immigrants under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program for an additional year while a broader fight over the program plays out in court.

Under the agreement announced Monday, work permits would be extended for Salvadorans who could be taken off TPS through January 2021, according to both the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador.

Acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Ken Cuccinelli stressed in a tweet Monday that while work permits would be extended for a year amid ongoing litigation, it was not an extension of the TPS program itself.

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TPS is a status given to people who come to the U.S. from countries that face turmoil such as war or natural disasters.

"Some reporting has spoken of 'extending TPS.' That has important legal meaning, and that's not what happened w/ the agreements. Rather, work permits for Salvadorans will be extended for 1 year past resolution of litigation for an orderly wind down period," the USICS head tweeted.

The announcement came amid several agreements unveiled by the Trump administration in recent weeks to receive buy-in from Central American countries in stemming the flow of migrants heading toward the U.S.

A judge last year halted the administration's move to end TPS for countries including El Salvador, with the government saying it would abide by an injunction extending the program until January 2020 while appealing the ruling in federal court.

Cuccinelli pushed back on Monday after U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador Ronald Johnson said in a tweet that the deal announced this week "extends TPS for Salvadorans in the US by one additional year."

A USCIS official reiterated to The Hill in an email Tuesday that "this is not a TPS extension."

"It’s an extension of the wind-down period during which work permits for Salvadoran nationals with TPS will be valid while they prepare to return to their home country,” the official said.

The State Department declined to comment, instead referring The Hill to DHS. 

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to issue a ruling related to the administration's push to end TPS soon.

The agreement on the work permits is the latest as the administration seeks to curb both legally and illegal immigration, particularly from Central America.

The U.S. previously reached an asylum agreement with El Salvador last month.