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Salvadorans on protected status must register for final extension

Hiroshi Sandoval, 5, of Westbury, center, joined activists

Hiroshi Sandoval, 5, of Westbury, center, joined activists with Make the Road New York outside Peter King's office in Massapequa Park on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017, to demand a clean Dream Act and an extension to Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Salvadorans slated to lose the temporary status that allows them to live and work legally in the United States were told they need to register anew with the federal government if they want to be permitted to stay for another 18 months before their time comes to an end.

Registration for that final extension started Thursday and will last through March 19.

Thousands on Long Island are affected by the eventual termination of what is known as Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, a designation granted to immigrants from countries in turmoil because of natural disasters, war or other extraordinary conditions. Their current permits were set to expire in March and the administration announced last week it would renew them one final time.

Many Salvadorans on TPS have grown deep roots, raising families and investing their savings here since at least 2001, prompting advocates and politicians to call for them to be given a chance to stay. President Donald Trump’s administration has been curtailing participation in the program.

In a notice Thursday in the Federal Register, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reiterated that El Salvador had recovered from the earthquakes that had justified the status.

“The social and economic conditions affected by the earthquakes have stabilized, and people are able to conduct their daily activities without impediments directly related to damage from the earthquakes,” the notice stated.

The extended status is set to expire at 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 9, 2019.

The cutoff date has many in a panic, advocates said.

“We have been receiving calls since it was announced and my receptionist is about to have a nervous breakdown,” said Elise Damas, an attorney with the Central American Refugee Services in Hempstead. “There is a lot of need for information, a lot of fear and a lot of questions. You see the uncertainty and fear with which people are living.”

The group, Damas said, is counseling clients to re-register, because it is the only chance they have. “If there’s any hope of reform it will be for those who are on the program,” she said.

Others have stepped up advocacy, with about 25 members of advocacy group Make The Road New York going Thursday from Brentwood to Washington, D.C., to lobby members of Congress.

“Thousands of TPS families on Long Island are living on expiration dates,” said Walter Barrientos, the group’s Long Island organizer. “We are telling the community this is the time for them to stand up and fight for their rights in this country.”

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said he believed that “TPS should be permanently extended” for Salvadorans and had supported legislation and written letters to that effect. “These people, every one of them, is here legally. There is no issue. We are not talking about social issues, criminal issues or terrorism issues” related to them. “They should be entitled to stay.”

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