A political delegation from El Salvador, led by its foreign minister, is meeting here this week with U.S. lawmakers to seek their help in extending two programs that shield the country's nationals in the United States from deportation.
“Our main concern is the 28,000 young people who are protected by DACA,” Foreign Minister Hugo Martínez said in a phone interview Wednesday, speaking about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Those young Salvadorans are among almost 800,000 undocumented young people who were brought to the United States as children. The U.S. Justice Department announced last week that it would rescind the 2012 Obama-era program whose registrants have been allowed to study and work in the United States. President Donald Trump met with top congressional Democrats -- Senator Charles Schumer and Representative Nancy Pelosi -- over dinner Wednesday at the White House to discuss DACA and other issues.
In meetings scheduled Wednesday through Friday, the delegation also is lobbying for extension of temporary protected status, or TPS, for roughly 200,000 Salvadoran nationals. Their status is set to expire March 9.
El Salvador is among 10 countries currently designated by Homeland Security for TPS because of dangerous conditions, such as ongoing conflict or natural or environmental disasters. It was the first to receive TPS after the program's 1990 start, because of the country's civil war, and in 2001 after a series of earthquakes.
Each country undergoes periodic review to determine whether its citizens living in the United States still should qualify for the status and work authorization.
"We as country initiated a bilateral strategy,” Martínez said, adding that in the next few weeks his country would collaborate “with others nations having the same problem” with TPS and DACA.
The other nine countries with TPS designation include Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
As for DACA, El Salvador has the second-largest group of recipients (28,371) after Mexico (618,342), according to New York Times calculations.
Mexico's foreign minister, Luis Videgaray Caso, said Monday that his country would welcome back the dreamers as "a blessing" and would support their continued higher education and help them find work. At a news conference in California's state capital, Sacramento, Videgaray noted his government also has been lobbying U.S. lawmakers to revise immigration laws because "these young people want to stay in America."
In Washington, the Salvadoran delegation included the president of its congress, Guillermo Gallegos, and representatives of several political parties.
Martinez told VOA that Salvadorans protected by TPS represent "an important labor force," with most adults holding jobs and paying taxes.
He also said his government's efforts to fight drug trafficking and transnational gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, shows a commitment to strong relations with the United States and a "strategic alliance in security."
This report originated in VOA's Spanish Service.