The United States government has extended temporary protection for Salvadorans living in the country by an additional year, the US ambassador to El Salvador, Ronald Johnson, said on Monday, in a potential sign of easing tensions over migration.
“Today in Washington, we signed an agreement which extends the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for the Salvadorans in the United States for another year,” Johnson said in a joint video statement with Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele.
TPS was granted to citizens of the Central American country following two devastating 2001 earthquakes in El Salvador that killed 8,000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless.
The programme offers protection from deportation to immigrants who already are in the US, from countries affected by natural disasters, civil conflicts and other problems.
But US President Donald Trump has shown considerable scepticism towards the protection scheme and has moved to revoke the special status afforded to thousands of immigrants from a number of countries including El Salvador.
TPS holders have argued that El Salvador was not ready to reintegrate people adding that lack of security and services like education continue to plague the Central American nation.
El Salvador, home to about six million people, has one of the world’s highest homicide rates. Gang violence and limited employment opportunities have led thousands of people to leave the country.
Curbing immigration has been a core political issue for the Trump administration and the focus of a series of recent pieces of legislation that have made seeking asylum or temporary protection in the US more difficult.
The US has struggled to contain a growing flow of migrants, mostly Central Americans fleeing gang violence, political persecution and extreme poverty. Most try to enter through the country’s southern border with Mexico. Officials say over 810,000 people were detained at US borders this budget year, a record high.
Bukele earlier this year called on Trump to continue TPS.
As of October 2018, there were over 263,000 TPS beneficiaries from El Salvador, court documents show.