Officials say the Trump administration is ending special protections for emigrants from El Salvador, forcing nearly 200,000 to leave the country or face deportation.
El Salvador is the fourth country whose citizens have lost Temporary Protected Status under President Donald Trump. They have by far been the largest beneficiaries of the program, which provides humanitarian relief for foreigners whose countries are hit with natural disasters or other strife.
A decision to force the Salvadorans back to their native country would represent a serious challenge for El Salvador, which depends on remittances from wage-earners in the U.S.
In November, the administration ended protections for citizens of Haiti and Nicaragua. Citizens of Honduras may be next.
Two U.S. officials discussed the decision with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly before the announcement.
One official said Salvadorans will have until September 2019 to leave the United States or adjust their legal status. Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen faced a Monday deadline whether to grant an extension.