US says 200,000 people from El Salvador must leave within 18 months

Trump administration names fourth country in four months to lose protection under TPS program, which since 1990 has provided expulsion relief

Nearly 200,000 people from El Salvador must leave the US in the next 18 months or change their immigration status, the US Department of Homeland Security said on Monday.

This announcement came despite efforts by immigration advocates and El Salvador’s government to persuade the Trump administration to continue providing lawful status and the ability to work to Salvadorans who have been protected from expulsion since the country was hit by two devastating earthquakes in 2001.

” They are Americans in all but their paperwork ,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of the immigration group America’s Voice Education Fund.” Now, the Trump administration is trying to drive them back to a country engulfed in corruption, violence and weak governance .”

El Salvador is the fourth country in four months to lose protection under the Temporary Protected Status( TPS) program, which since 1990 has offered deportation relief to people from regions experiencing armed conflict and natural disasters.

DHS said it cancelled the TPS for Salvadorans because the dangerous conditions created by the earthquakes, which killed more than 1,000 people , no longer exist. The country has rebuilt from the damage but is beset by drought, economic issues and gang violence.

” The administration will no doubt taken the most narrow view of what it could consider ,” said Royce Murray, policy director at the American Immigration Council.

Christian Chavez Guevara, who has TPS and has lived in the US since 2000 was emotional as he described how this decision would affect his family in a bellow with reporters.

” Our family is going to break apart ,” said Chavez, who is married to a US citizen and is the guardian of his 15 -year-old US citizen cousin whose mother was deported. He also cares for two stepchildren.

” I don’t know what to do ,” Chavez said.” There is not a plan for the future now .”

The majority of the 195,000 Salvadorans with TPS have lived in the US longer than Chavez, according to a 2017 report by the Center for Migration Studies. The report saw 51% of Salvadorans with TPS have lived in the US for more than 20 years and 34% have homes with mortgages. They live mostly in California, Texas, New York and Washington DC.

” This is a bad decision ,” said Refugees International president Eric Schwartz.” Given conditions in El Salvador, the return of hundreds of thousands of law-abiding residents of the United States who have been here for nearly two decades is just wrong. It’s wrong ethically and in terms of US interests in stability in El Salvador .”

Salvadorans with TPS have until 9 September 2019 to leave the US or change their status.

DHS acknowledged some TPS recipients had lived and worked in the US for many years but said only Congress could create a pathway to lawful immigration status for the population.” The 18 -month delayed termination will enable Congress time to craft a potential legislative solution ,” the DHS statement said.

This echoes the Trump administration’s justification for ending a program that offered temporary expulsion protection to undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children- Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals( Daca ). Trump cancelled Daca, but said he wanted Congress to find a solution that would protect that population.

” Alongside the decision to end Daca last autumn, we’ve now placed a million people who have worked and lived legally in the US for years- and who have been vetted- we have now taken that status away from them ,” said Murray.” No one gains in this scenario .”

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El Salvador court upholds 30-year jail sentence in stillbirth case

Teodora del Carmen Vsquez was convicted of the aggravated murder of a newborn baby in 2008, but she says it was a stillbirth

An El Salvador court has repudiated the appeal of a woman sentenced to 30 years in prison over what she says was a stillbirth.

Teodora del Carmen Vasquez, 37, said she was working in 2007 when she began to experience intense pain, then hemorrhaging. She called for help before fainting. As she came round, police officers surrounded her and accused her of murdering her newborn by inducing an abortion of her virtually full-term baby.

Authorities charged Vasquez with aggravated assassination and she was convicted in 2008. Her attorneys appealed her sentence, presenting evidence that the baby was born dead.

The court said it relied on the government autopsy’s conclusion that the girl was born alive and asphyxiated.

The non-profit Center for Reproductive Rights, which has been campaigning for the release of dozens of other women convicted of murder in El Salvador for obstetric emergencies, said the decision was ” another slap in the face for Teodora, who never committed any crime “.

” The Salvadoran court is perpetuating the criminal prosecution of women who suffer pregnancy complications, denying girls their dignity, freedom and rights ,” said Nancy Northup, the centre’s chairman and CEO.

” El Salvador’s abortion statute criminalises and wrongfully imprisons girls. Today the Salvadoran court has been decided to deny Teodora her due process .”

Human rights group Amnesty International called the decision a step back for justice.

” Teodora’s tragic tale is a sad illustration of everything that is wrong with the justice system in El Salvador, where human rights seem to be a foreign concept ,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty’s Americas director.

” Instead of punishing Teodora for being a woman, authorities in El Salvador is an urgent need take a hard look at their outrageous anti-abortion statute and take immediate steps to repeal it .”

El Salvador is one of a handful of Latin American countries with total bans on abortion.

In 2014, a alliance of NGOs, led by Agrupacion Ciudadana and the Center for Reproductive Rights, launched the” Las 17” online campaign to call for the release of women who had experienced obstetric emergencies and who were charged with having an illegal abortion and then convicted of slaying. Three females have been released. But in July 19 -year old Evelyn Beatriz Hernandez Cruz, who had been raped, was sentenced to 30 years for slaying after she had a stillbirth.

The two organisations have filed two cases before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights( IACHR) on behalf of some of the “Las17” women.

” The center, Agrupacion Ciudadana, and global partners will continue to challenge El Salvador in the courts and international human rights bodies until Teodora and the remaining females are freed ,” said Catalina Martinez Coral, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights.” This tribunal decision will not stop us from fighting for Teodora’s freedom, Las 17 and all women who have been wrongfully incarcerated under the country’s draconian abortion law .”

A glimmer of hope that El Salvador could overturn its abortion prohibition emerged earlier this year with the introduction of a parliamentary bill that proposed letting abortion in situations of rape or human trafficking, when the foetus in unviable or to protect the pregnant woman’s health or life. Recently, activists took to the streets to protest the absolute ban.

In August, Chile voted to overturn its complete ban to allow abortion in certain circumstances.

Last week Bolivia loosened its laws to allow girls and young women to access abortion services up to eight weeks into pregnancy. Prior to the change in new legislation, abortion was only available to women if “peoples lives” were in danger.

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