U.S. extends temporary protected status for more than 330,000 immigrants, including from Nepal

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The Biden administration said Tuesday, June 13, 2023, that it will allow thousands of immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Nepal living in the United States on temporary status to renew their work permits for 18 months, reversing a Trump-era directive that sought to revoke the humanitarian protections.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said his decision preserves protections for more than 330,000 people from the four countries, granting them permission to live and work in the United States into 2025.

The announcement came as a relief for immigrants in the United States under a federal designation called “temporary protected status.” Others were disappointed that the protections remain limited to immigrants who arrived in the country years ago. They had hoped the Biden administration would issue a fresh designation to include more-recent arrivals.

“At least they’re covering people who have been living and working here for decades,” said Kerri Talbot, deputy director of the Immigration Hub, an advocacy organization.

While the Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday that each group’s protection will be extended for 18 months, they will expire on different dates in 2025 because their original designation dates vary.

To be eligible to renew their work permits, Salvadorans, the largest group, with nearly 240,000 people under the provisional status, must have been in the United States since Feb. 13, 2001, when earthquakes devastated their country. Hondurans and Nicaraguans must have lived in the country since Dec. 30, 1998, after Hurricane Mitch, and Nepalis since June 24, 2015, also after an earthquake.

Former president Donald Trump had tried to end the protections, saying the emergencies that spurred the U.S. government to offer the groups temporary refuge had long passed.

Civil liberties groups sued in 2018, alleging that the Trump administration’s moves to rescind the status were arbitrary and motivated by racism in violation of the Constitution. A federal judge in California sided with the advocates and temporarily blocked the terminations.

A 9th Circuit appeals court overturned that decision 2-1 in September 2020, weeks before the presidential election, but the terminations did not take effect immediately.

After President Biden took office, lawyers for the Justice Department and the immigrants attempted to settle the case, but talks broke down late last year. The plaintiffs asked the appeals court to have a panel of 11 judges rehear the case, and the court agreed and scheduled a hearing for June 22.

Some legal analysts said the DHS decision to revoke the Trump administration’s terminations could render the lawsuit moot, though lawyers for the plaintiffs said that was unclear Tuesday.

As a candidate, Biden bashed the Trump administration’s “politically motivated decisions to rescind protected status for hundreds of thousands of people” and promised to preserve their protections and push for a path to U.S. citizenship for them.

Some advocates had hoped that the Biden administration would create a new eligibility date so that more recent immigrants from those countries could apply for TPS. But the administration, which has struggled with record numbers of apprehensions at the southern border and low approval ratings for Biden’s immigration policies, did not expand the program for those countries.

Immigrants with the temporary status are eligible for work permits, social security cards and state driver’s licenses, but the status does not lead to citizenship. Many have established themselves in careers such as health care and construction, own homes and are raising U.S. citizen children.

José Palma, a TPS holder from El Salvador and spokesman for the National TPS Alliance, an advocacy organization, said Biden should have acted earlier to grant the protections.

“He should have done the right thing and restored Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for our community on his first day in office, but instead we endured two years of uncertainty while we battled in courts, demonstrated in streets, and made our case within a dysfunctional congress,” Palma said in a statement. “We have made this country our home, and yet we still don’t have equal protection.”

The Biden administration had extended temporary protected status to approximately 670,000 people from 16 countries as of April, according to the Pew Research Center.



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