OZARK, Mo. — 200,000 people from El Salvador will have their Temporary Protected Status terminated by 2019.
A large majority of them live in California, D.C. area, Texas and New York. But at least one of Salvadoran lives right here in the Ozarks.
“It was kind of scary for me I didn’t speak any English at all,” said Hugo Montejo, who was seven when his family moved from El Savador to Marshall, MO.
“I came here and next week I started first grade,” he said.
18 years later, he’s an emergency technician at Mercy. Montejo is now 24. He graduated from MSU and is now engaged to his high school sweetheart.
Some would say living the American Dream and although he considers himself an American.
“I grew up here, I’ve been through college, I work here,” he said.
He’s still not officially one.
“The main question I get is: why are you not a resident or a citizen? And people are schoked that I’ve been here 18 years and I’m still not a resident.”
Current law doesn’t allow adjustment of status from TPS.
“There’s no pathway to switch,” Montejo says. ‘Once you get TPS, that’s what you have. You can’t apply for another type of status or anything like that.”
He tells KOLR10 he arrived on a tourist Visa in 2000. Temporary Protected Status has allowed him and his family to remain in the country legally since 2001. TPS grants a social security number and a work permit that is renewable every 18 months.
After a decision by the current administration, Montejo, his family and thousands of other Salvadorians have until March 19 to renew, for the last time, their status.
TPS for Salvadorans ends in September of 2019.
“My brother has his master’s degree. He also went to Missouri State University and works in Kansas City. And he has two children that are U.S. Citizens. So, for him to be like – what’s gonna happen in 18 months? It’s kinda difficult, too.”
Montejo’s father is a pastor, so his faith has kept the family hopeful. He says he’ll continue to make plans – he’s getting married and applying for medical school in the summer.
“I see it as another challenge,” he said. “My life all throughout has been challenges, even getting my undergrad degree was a challenge. And every challenge that I’ve encountered in my life, I’ve been able to beat it.”
2,500 Nicaraguans, who have had TPS since 1998 will lose their protection by January of 2019.
60,000 Haitians will also have their status terminated by July of next year.
USCIS encourages applicants to register as soon as possible.