WASHINGTON, D.C. (EFE) – Salvadoran President Tony Saca confirmed this week that the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush has extended Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for another year to more than 300,000 Central American immigrants living in the United States, and denied that his dispatch of troops to Iraq is a quid pro quo.
Saca made the announcement following a meeting with Bush at the White House, in which the two leaders also discussed trade relations.
“I want to confirm that the United States has extended TPS for another year for 250,000 Salvadorans,” Saca told reporters.
The measure also covers some 75,000 Hondurans and 4,000 Nicaraguans. According to Saca, Bush expressed his interest in pushing through immigration reform in the United States but acknowledged that it would be difficult to overcome congressional opposition.
Bush has proposed granting renewable two-year work permits to workers – many of them Mexicans and Central Americans – but his plan has been received unenthusiastically in Congress.
Democrats and some Republicans say Bush’s proposal is inadequate because it does not offer migrants a path toward legal permanent residence. Most Republicans, however, condemn the guest-worker initiative as a de-facto amnesty that will only encourage more illegal immigration.
Saca, meanwhile, denied that his support for Bush’s war in Iraq played a role in the immigration reprieve.
“I’m not exchanging troops for TPS,” said Saca in reference to the dispatch to the Arab nation of a sixth contingent of 380 soldiers, the only Latin American troops carrying out operations there.
TPS is a federal program established in 1990 that grants safe haven in the United States to immigrants from countries devastated by civil conflicts or natural disasters. It was granted to thousands of Hondurans and Nicaraguans after Hurricane Mitch ravaged those countries in 1998 and later to even greater numbers of Salvadorans in the wake of severe earthquakes.
About a million Salvadoran immigrants live in the United States and the money they send home each year to family members constitutes an important source of foreign currency.
Before his talks with Bush, Saca met Thursday with leaders of both houses of Congress in Miami, stressing the need for the United States to implement a program to legalize the status of undocumented immigrants.
Like other Latin American leaders, Saca – a dependable ally of the United States in the fight against terrorism – supports comprehensive immigration reform and opposes a bill before the U.S. Senate for the construction of hundreds of miles of additional border fences to stem the tide of illegal immigration.