BRENTWOOD, Long Island (WABC) -- The Trump administration's decision to end special protections for about 200,0000 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.
23-year-old Rodman Serrano from Brentwood, Long Island is about to graduate college in the spring with a degree in teaching English.
What should be an exciting time of life is now buried in a nightmare. His parents are from El Salvador. They have lived, worked, and paid taxes for the last 20 years with their temporary protected status.
TPS protects them from deportation while allowing them to drive, and obtain a temporary social security card.
The Serranos are like any other American family. They have 3 children born in New York. They work. They go to church.
But on Monday the Trump administration announced the end of TPS for Salvadoran immigrants, which means Rodman's parents could soon be deported and returned to their mother country, which is besieged by violence, high unemployment, and corruption.
"My mom and dad, they consider themselves to be New Yorkers," said Rodman. "When they came to this country they were pursuing the American dream."
The government's decision is heartbreaking for Rodman and his two younger sisters. They are not the only ones grieving. It will be devastating for the 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants who currently have TPS.
"To take them away from their homes, their families, their friends, it's immoral," said Rodman.
The new order goes into effect in 18 months, leaving these families scrambling for help.
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.
The decision, while not surprising, was a severe blow to Salvadorans in New York, Houston, San Francisco and other major cities that have welcomed them since at least the 1980s.
The action presents a serious challenge for El Salvador, a country of 6.2 million people whose economy counts on money sent by wage earners in the U.S. Over the past decade, growing numbers of Salvadorans - many coming as families or unaccompanied children - have entered the United States illegally through Mexico, fleeing violence and poverty.
In September 2016, the Obama administration extended protections for 18 months, saying El Salvador was still suffering the lingering effects of earthquakes in 2001 that killed more than 1,000 people. The administration said the country was temporarily unable to absorb such a large number of returning people.
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.
The U.S. created temporary protected status in 1990 to provide safe havens for people from countries affected by earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, war and other disasters. It currently shields people from 10 countries, more than half from El Salvador.
The benefit, which includes work authorization, can be renewed up to 18 months at a time by the Homeland Security secretary.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
Temporary protected status will end for 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants living in the US