San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Saca Asks U.S. to Extend Immigration Benefits

WASHINGTON, D.C. – El Salvador President Tony Saca traveled to the U.S. capital last week to ask U.S. President George W. Bush to extend the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for undocumented Salvadoran immigrants in the United States, a benefit currently set to expire in March 2009.

Saca made the request during a meeting at the White House, where the two presidents discussed a number of subjects, including Central American security and the situation in Iraq, where El Salvador has several hundred troops stationed.

As he left the meeting, Saca – asked by reporters about the U.S. president’s answer to his request for an extension of TPS – said in Spanish that Bush “has never forgotten my people,” although he admitted that “we’ll have to wait and see.”

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced last May an 18-month extension of TPS for immigrants from Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

The decision allowed some 78,000 Hondurans, 4,000 Nicaraguans and 230,000 Salvadorans to continue living and working legally in the United States.

Remittance money from the United States is El Salvador’s largest source of revenue.

As for Iraq, Saca told Bush of his intention to ask lawmakers in San Salvador to authorize sending another contingent of Salvadoran soldiers to the Middle Eastern country.

The two presidents also widely discussed the regional security plan known as the Merida Initiative, for which the United States has promised a $50 million investment towards fighting organized crime in Central America. Saca, who described the meeting as a “frank discussion,” showed satisfaction at Bush’s support for the measures that his government has taken to improve security in El Salvador.


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