After the Trump administration announced that the United States will end temporary protected status for immigrants from El Salvador, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is ramping up efforts to protect the state’s Salvadoran population.
Some 200,000 Salvadorans who have been allowed to live and work in the United States since 2001 are now being told that they have to leave the country by Sept. 2019, government officials announced Monday — unless Congress finds a permanent solution to protect these immigrants.
Cuomo called the order “disgraceful and unjust,” and has ordered the Department of State to increase outreach efforts so that vulnerable residents know their rights.
In New York, more than 16,000 Salvadorans are beneficiaries of temporary protected status, or TPS — a humanitarian program granted for Salvadorans in 2001 after an earthquake devastated the Central American nation. The program allows Salvadorans to live and work in the U.S. without being detained by the Department of Homeland Security on the basis of their immigration status.
"After fleeing a horrific natural disaster, Salvadorans found safe haven on our shores and have called the U.S. home for more than a decade. They have worked hard, paid taxes, bought homes, and had families — all in an effort to achieve the American Dream," Governor Cuomo said in a statement.
"This federal administration's decision to tear families apart, disrupt small businesses, and lead those who have become part of the American fabric to an uncertain future, is disgraceful and unjust,” he continued. “We will work day in and day out to connect with impacted New Yorkers and make sure they know their rights and legal options in order to help protect these hard-working men and women."
Rene Marino, a 29-year-old Salvadoran and DACA recipient whose father came to the U.S. under TPS, said that though his family somewhat expected this move, it was still shocking.
“We were always hoping that it wouldn't happen,” he said. Now, his father is upset, he said, “because that’s the only way that he can work legitimately, and so this kind of means he’s going to have to go back into the shadows.”
Marino, who lives in Flatbush, hadn't yet heard of Cuomo's comments in the wake of the order, but he said he appreciates the effort.
"It's brings me a little bit of hope," he added. "In New York, they're very sympathetic to immigrants. [Those efforts] are something I’m looking forward to, so that we’re not fully in the shadows and we’re aware of the actions we can take.”
Cuomo has directed the New York State Office for New Americans and the Liberty Defense Project (both hosted by the Department of State) to increase their communication efforts with the Salvadoran community.
The Liberty Defense Project, a state-led public-private partnership launched in March 2017, is focused on helping immigrants access legal services regardless of their status.
Angela Fernandez, executive director of the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, said in a statement that the Project allows organizations like hers to offer “the highest quality immigration legal defense to those who are most disenfranchised.”
“And in this case,” she added, “it will mean the difference between being deported or being able to remain in the only country many TPS holders call home."
Cuomo’s office says that anyone impacted by the TPS decision can contact the New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636. The hotline is toll-free, confidential, anonymous and provides live help in more than 200 languages. It’s available 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, excluding Federal holidays.
New York’s Office for New Americans has 27 Opportunity Centers, where immigration lawyers and Liberty Defense Project members will provide up-to-date information and advice for TPS beneficiaries. Find a location at newamericans.ny.gov/opportunity/opportunity_centers.html.
The office is also hosting Know Your Rights seminars Feb. 8, 15 and 22; locations will be detailed through the hotline and at newamericans.ny.gov as soon as possible.