HOUSTON— More than 200,000 immigrants from El Salvador have about 18 months to either find a legal way to stay in the United States or face deportation.
"Time to give Salvadorans and all TPS holders citizenship."
TPS stands for Temporary Protected Status. For nationals from war-torn countries or those that have suffered an epidemic or a natural disaster, TPS means a red light on deportation and a green light to work here. Legally.
Today's announcement by the Trump administration puts extra emphasis on the word 'temporary.'
"In the matter of an hour I was devastated and threatened with an expiration date to that." Patricia Merlos was born in El Salvador but moved to Texas with her parents when she was less than a year old.
"These are not people that entered the country illegally. These are people who were allowed in," said Abraham Espinosa with FIEL. "These are people that have been living here legally. That have worked. That have paid taxes."
Critics argue it's inhumane to kick these people out. Many have been in the U.S. since the 2001 El Salvador earthquake.
"I went to school here. I got my Bachelor's degree here. Put myself through school because I didn't qualify for financial aid. So, worked two, three jobs at a time to get myself through college," Merlos said.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee calls this decision "thoughtless and cruel." One that will affect "more than 36-thousand people living in Texas."
"It's a heartbreaking blow, premature and dangerous, a decision that will shatter communities," Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said.
There are also concerns about the financial effects.
"A lot of them are business owners," said Espinosa. "So, the economic impact if they are forced to leave, you are going to be able to see it."
Congress could intervene with a deal to reform immigration policy which could make Salvadorans` anxiety temporary.