PHOENIX - The Trump administration's decision to end special protections for many Salvadoran immigrants filled many Salvadoran families with dread Monday, raising the possibility that they will be forced to abandon their roots in the U.S. and return to a violent homeland they have not known for years, even decades.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen gave Salvadorans with temporary protected status until Sept. 9, 2019, to leave the United States or face deportation. El Salvador becomes the fourth country since President Donald Trump took office to lose protection under the program, which provides humanitarian relief for people whose countries are hit with natural disasters or other strife.
Nielsen, who faced a Monday deadline on another extension, concluded that El Salvador has received significant international aid to recover from the earthquake, and homes, schools and hospitals there have been rebuilt.
"The substantial disruption of living conditions caused by the earthquake" no longer exists, the department said in a statement.
The decision comes amid intensifying talks between the White House and Congress on an immigration package that may include protections for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who came to the country as children and were temporarily shielded from deportation under an Obama-era program. Trump said in September that he was ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, but gave Congress until March to act.
Local reactions to President Trump's decision
"We are workers, we are here to work," said community Linda Herrera. "People that really, really -- especially the youth and the children, grandparents like me who are now facing the separation of their families have people devastated."
"My whole family is affected, except for my little sister who was born here," said one woman, identified only as "Maria". She has been in the U.S. for two decades, and she's all grown up, and has established herself as a healthcare worker in the Valley.
Now, that's up in the air.
"We had a little bit of hope thinking that the Congress and the Trump Administration, even though they're very hard on immigration, I understand to a certain extent, but I don't understand how they're destroying families. Where does that leave the next generation? I have a six-year-old, and I'm not just worried about my future."
The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.