The Trump administration is reportedly terminating the provisional residency permits of around 200,000 Salvadorans.
The Salvadorans affected by the decision were granted temporary protected status after earthquakes caused serious damage in El Salvador in 2001, according to The Washington Post.
The administration said the Salvadorans granted TPS would now have until Sept. 9, 2019 to leave the U.S. or obtain legal residency through another method.
According to the Department of Homeland Security officials, the decision was based on improved conditions in El Salvador since the 2001 quakes.
"Based on on careful consideration of available information, including recommendations received as part of an inter-agency consultation process, the Secretary determined that the original conditions caused by the 2001 earthquakes no longer exist,” read a statement from DHS. “Thus, under the applicable statute, the current TPS designation must be terminated."
"Schools and hospitals damaged by the earthquakes have been reconstructed and repaired, homes have been rebuilt, and money has been provided for water and sanitation and to repair earthquake-damaged roads and other infrastructure," said the DHS, reports the Los Angeles Times. "The substantial disruption of living conditions caused by the earthquake no longer exist."
Immigration advocates spoke out against the decision, saying that sending such a large number of people back to El Salvador could be destabilizing, and noting the country's epidemic of gang violence.
Others have raised concerns about U.S.-born children of Salvadorans who were granted TPS, estimated to number about 190,000. Those families must now decide whether to take their children to El Salvador, break up their families or stay in the U.S. illegally to stay together.
"The United States has yet again turned its back on its promise to provide refuge for those who face violence and persecution in their home countries," said Alianza Americas Director Oscar Chacon, who works for immigrant rights.
"Our government is complicit in breaking up families," Chacon added.
According to statistics from the Center for Migration Studies, 10 percent of the Salvadoran TPS recipients are married to U.S. citizens, and 88 percent of them are part of the work force in the U.S., BBC reports.
Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, who helped write the law granting temporary status to Salvadorans, called the administration's decision "a shameful and cynical move to punish these innocent families just to score political points with the extreme right wing Republican base."
The Salvadoran government had also urged the U.S. to extend TPS protections. El Salvador Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez said before the decision was announced that ending TPS "would mean breaking up families that are in the U.S."
Martinez added that because the U.S. grants citizenship to those who are born in the U.S., almost 200,000 young U.S. citizens would have parents who would face deportation.