NEW YORK (FOX5NY.COM) - The Trump administration has added El Salvador to the list of countries whose citizens have lost temporary protected status in the United States.
Rosa Martinez has called the United States home for 20 years. But now the mother of two is one of nearly 200,000 people from El Salvador who must leave the country after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security confirmed Monday morning that it is ending special protections for Salvadoran immigrants.
"I have no words to express how my heart feels right now," Martinez said. "I do everything a U.S. citizen does except I don't have the passport."
Many immigrants like Rosa have been allowed to live and work in the U.S. under the Temporary Protected Status program after earthquakes struck El Salvador in 2001. Now they have until September 2019 to leave the U.S., adjust their legal status, or face deportation.
Santos Romero is devastated. She relies on her job cleaning offices to support her family and can't imagine explaining to her two children she can no longer live here.
"We're here to live our lives and contribute to the economy and we want the same as everyone else," she told Fox 5 through an interpreter.
Salvadorans are said to be the largest immigrant group on Long Island with close to 15,000 people in Nassau and Suffolk counties. If they were to leave, Long Island could lose an estimated hundreds of millions of dollars in annual spending.
Patrick Young of the Central American Refugee Center called the move a "cruel and unnecessary action."
"They're parents, they're business owners, many of them are homeowners," Young said. "These are people who have been doing everything right in America and we're going to send them back to a place where they're going to become instant targets for the gangs."
The New York Immigration Coalition called an emergency news conference in New York City. The organization is standing in solidarity vowing to protect the Salvadoran community.
"This is not a just or fair policy. This is not a policy decision that honors families," Anu Joshua of the New York Immigration Coalition said. "This is not a policy that reflects the values we strive for as a country."
The Department of Homeland Security said that El Salvador has received significant international aid and that "the substantial disruption of living conditions caused by the earthquake no longer exists."
El Salvador is now the fourth country whose citizens have lost TPS under President Trump. Immigrant advocates encourage supporters of TPS to call reach out to their local lawmakers and demand a solution.