Local TPS Salvadorans May Have to Return to El Salvador - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Local TPS Salvadorans May Have to Return to El Salvador

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A day after the Trump administration announced it will end Temporary Protected Status for 200,000 people from El Salvador. The program allows people to move to the United States for humanitarian reasons because of natural disasters, war and epidemics in their home country. Some have been living in the U.S. for decades.

Ana Figueroa lives in Sparks. She came to the Truckee Meadows in 1999. El Salvador's civil war had ended but problems with violence and unemployment persisted.

"El Salvador is a country that is not good to live because of the violence," Figueroa said. "There's no jobs. That's why we came here."

Figueroa followed two of her brothers to America, and the rest of the family soon followed. Her brother, Tony, moved to the U.S. in 1989 to escape the war torn country.

"I was basically a fugitive of war in my own country without being a criminal," Tony Figueroa said.

Tony is now a U.S. citizen, and of his six siblings and his mother, only Ana is not a permanent resident or citizen. The end of TPS means she may have to move back to El Salvador by September 9, 2019.

"I can't imagine because I don't have anyone in El Salvador," Ana Figueroa said. "My mom's here, all my siblings are here. I don't have anyone over there."

Ana says the Figueroas are a close-knit family and they hope to find a solution to her predicament. She does not have a lot of options though. John Carrico is an attorney with Family Visa & Immigration Services who has handled successful asylum cases, but they are hard to win.

"You can't win asylum without proving a credible fear of return to your own country," Carrico said. "More importantly, you have to file those documents within a year of entering the United States."

Most of the TPS holders from El Salvador have been here much longer than one year. Ana Figueroa is not married to an American citizen and does not have children, making it very difficult to get a green card. Her biggest fear of moving back is the violence in El Salvador.

"It's my country but I wouldn't feel safe," Ana Figueroa said.

The violence and gang activity is why the Figueroa family says the U.S. should renew the TPS program. Tony says there is gang violence that is similar to that of mobsters like Al Capone. Some will charge a fee or tax to people who own businesses on their turf.

"Say you own a small restaurant over there," Tony Figueroa said. "You have to pay your dues. Otherwise, they'll kill you. It's just as simple as that."

Carrico says since many Salvadorans are established in the U.S. and have American-born children, moving to El Salvador puts entire families at risk.

"It's still one of the most violent countries in the world and I think that the United States government has an obligation to protect its U.S. citizens," Carrico said. "200,000 of them have parents from El Salvador."

"I think they should continue them here in the U.S. because if the people go back, they'll be in danger," Tony Figueroa said.

While the 200,000 Salvadorans came to the U.S. on a temporary status, they did not come illegally.  Carrico says many consider themselves to be Americans, after living here for so many years.

"They've assimilated in the United States, they're part of the United States now," Carrico said. "It's just very difficult for them to return to a country that's a very violent country."

"I pay my taxes, pay everything, I don't have a bad record," Ana Figueroa said. "I feel like I'm a good citizen."

Congress is discussing a bill that would replace DACA, which would allow undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to stay in the country.  The Figueroa family hopes it will also make a law that will allow Ana to stay, as well.

"They have never given trouble to the country," Tony Figueroa said. "So why do we want to kick these people out?"

Salvadorans who stay in the U.S. past September 9, 2019 will become undocumented immigrants.  If Ana goes back to El Salvador, she will not be allowed to return to the U.S. for ten years. If one of her siblings applies for a visa on her behalf, it would take 20 years for it to take effect.

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