(WASHINGTON) — The Department of Homeland Security has issued an 18-month extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designations for El Salvador, Honduras, Nepal and Nicaragua, the department announced on Tuesday.
The extension allows approximately 337,000 immigrants from those countries, who are currently protected from deportation, to temporarily continue legally living and working in the country.
TPS is issued by the secretary of Homeland Security when countries are deemed too dangerous for their citizens for several reasons including national disasters, political unrest and war.
Although TPS may protect immigrants from deportation, it does not offer a pathway to citizenship for certain people residing in the U.S. before a certain date. For those from Nicaragua, for example, TPS protections were granted after Hurricane Mitch devastated Central America in 1998, and so only certain individuals that were in the U.S. on Jan. 5, 1999, are eligible to apply.
Applicants must also meet other criteria, like background checks.
The Trump administration had previously tried to end TPS for these and other countries, but a lawsuit filed by advocates on behalf of TPS holders stalled the termination. DHS claims Tuesday’s announcement officially rescinds those attempts. A hearing in that case is scheduled on June 22.
Ahilan Arulanantham, an attorney representing TPS holders in the ongoing lawsuit, said in a tweet that details about how the announcement affects their case still need to be worked out but celebrated the government’s actions.
“That’s why we are here now, watching the government finally inch toward doing the bare minimum version of the right thing,” he said.
Advocates say that Tuesday’s announcement serves as an acknowledgement from the Biden administration that immigrants from those countries must be shielded from deportation, but it falls short of protecting the thousands more that have come to the U.S. since TPS was designated.
TPS remains one of the only tools that the administration has to protect large groups of migrants without congressional approval.
“Through the extension of Temporary Protected Status, we are able to offer continued safety and protection to current beneficiaries who are nationals of El Salvador, Honduras, Nepal, and Nicaragua who are already present in the United States and cannot return because of the impacts of environmental disasters,” said DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in a statement. “We will continue to offer support to them through this temporary form of humanitarian relief.”
The DHS announcement coincided with TPS Children’s Day, a celebration observed by immigrant advocates. Gabriela Hernandez, a communications specialist for immigrant organization CASA, says around 10 children of current TPS holders met with and shared friendship bracelets with White House officials today ahead of the announcement and urged them to protect their families from deportation and to designate TPS for Guatemala.
The White House did not respond when asked to comment on the meeting.
Yubrank Suazo, a Nicaraguan opposition leader formerly imprisoned by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, was freed and flown to the U.S. in February 2021.
“While I applaud the administration for doing this, it’s regrettable they did not redesignate TPS,” he told ABC News in Spanish. “Over 100,000 [Nicaraguan] immigrants who have fled oppression and the humanitarian crisis in our country are still vulnerable.”
Approximately 241,699 El Salvadorans and 76,737 Hondurans benefit from the program, according to a 2022 report by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Nepal and Nicaragua make up a smaller portion of the TPS-beneficiaries with approximately 14,556 and 4,250 immigrants enrolled, respectively.
Only those who are already benefitting from the protections are eligible to reregister. The announcement does not grant additional relief to any new group.
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