The administration of President Joe Biden on Friday extended deportation relief for several thousand Syrian immigrants living in the United States, an early move that aligns with his broader pro-immigrant platform.
Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske said temporary protected status, known as TPS, would be extended for 18 months. It was set to expire on March 31.
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“This action enables over 6,700 eligible Syrian nationals (and individuals without nationality who last resided in Syria) to retain their TPS through September 2022 and allows approximately 1,800 additional individuals to file initial applications to obtain such status,” according to the announcement.
The temporary status allows foreign citizens to stay in the US if they lack some other form of legal residency and come from a country that meets certain criteria that makes it dangerous to return.
Wonderful news as @DHSgov announces an 18-month extension AND re-designation of Syria’s Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a program which allows many Syrians to work and live legally in US while their country undergoes a human rights & humanitarian crisis https://t.co/UavosAbGtq pic.twitter.com/V3HkuNN5xM
— Mai El-Sadany (@maitelsadany) January 29, 2021
The renewal order covers Syrian citizens and people without other nationalities who last resided there.
Pekoske said Syria continues to meet that criterion because of the civil war. He cited factors that include the deliberate targeting of civilians, the use of chemical weapons and the scarcity of food and water.
Biden, who took office on January 20, has pledged to embrace a more welcoming approach to refugees and immigrants. The stance contrasts with the hardline policies of former Republican President Donald Trump, who rolled back many humanitarian protections.
Trump largely sought to phase out enrollment in the TPS programme for immigrants from Central American and other countries but was stymied by legal challenges. Despite his tough stance, his administration twice extended protections for Syrians due to ongoing armed conflict and limited access to medical care in the country. Trump, however, did not allow new applicants into the programme.
Biden also pledged to grant TPS to immigrants from Venezuela due to the economic conditions in that country, although Trump had pre-empted that move by providing the protections through a similar programme before he left office.