OAKLAND, Calif. (Amber Lee/KTVU) - An estimated 195,000 immigrants from El Salvador who are in the United States under what's called Temporary Protected Status (TPS), may have to return to their home country. President Donald Trump announced Monday that he is ending the program.
TPS recipients have will have to find a way to stay in the United States legally or face deportation in September 2019.
Advocates for many TPS recipients live in Oakland, San Francisco and Richmond.
Carmen Guardado of Oakland keeps a photo album that chronicles her life. She showed KTVU photos from the time she first arrived in the United States.
She says she left El Salvador to escape an abusive husband in 1994 and came to this country to be with family.
Guardado says she gained legal status when the U.S. government granted her temporary protected status in 2001 along with many El Salvorans who came to the U.S. following a civil war and after a severe earthquake.
She raised her children here and works as a clothes washer.
Guardado describes El Salvador as a dangerous place. She says violent crimes such as extortion by gangs are commonplace and the murder rate is high.
"Killing everyday. Killing people everyday," says Guardado.
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein says she and two other lawmakers have introduced legislation to provide permanent protection from deportation to individuals with TPS.
In a written statement, she said, "As a country, we shouldn't force people to return to a violent and deadly environment."
"I don't want to go back to my country. No because I don't know my country," says Guardado.
Advocates for immigrants from El Salvador say they formed a coalition called Save TPS Now last June because they saw anti-immigrant sentiment grow under the Trump administration.
"With this administration, we knew everything was going to be hard because before he started, he said I'm going to kick everybody out," says Jose Mejia, a community organizer with Save TPS Now.
Under the TPS program, advocates say recipients were given social security numbers, work permits, and driver licenses. They are also vetted every 18 months to make sure they don't have a criminal record or use drugs.
"I'm not feeling illegal here because I have 23 years here. I am American," says Guardado.
To help TPS recipients, advocates are holding a forum Saturday, January 13 at the El Salvador Consulate in San Francisco from 2pm to 4pm.
Next month, they will go to Washington D.C. to lobby law makers to pass legislation to protect TPS recipients.