DHS extends immigration protection for four countries amid court battles

DHS extends immigration protection for four countries amid court battles
© Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is extending temporary protected status (TPS) for U.S. residents from Sudan, El Salvador, Haiti and Nicaragua, as President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Camerota clashes with Trump's immigration head over president's tweet LA Times editorial board labels Trump 'Bigot-in-Chief' Trump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates MORE's orders to reduce the program languish in court.

DHS filed a notice Thursday extending TPS designations for the four countries until Jan. 2, 2020, and the notice will officially be published in the Federal Register on Friday.

Under TPS, citizens of certain countries that have undergone natural or man-made disasters are allowed to live and work in the United States while their home nations recover.

ADVERTISEMENT

In some cases, TPS holders have been in the United States for over two decades, with more or less automatic renewals of their status every 18 months.

The Trump administration sought to scale down TPS by withholding renewals of country designations, effectively forcing beneficiaries to either find a new immigration status or leave the country.

In October, a judge in California blocked the administration from terminating TPS for Sudan, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Haiti, siding with plaintiffs who argued the move was motivated by a pre-determined political agenda.

The DHS announcement this week is part of the administration's effort to comply with that ruling.

"TPS was terminated as required by law by the Secretary for a number of countries. Litigation ensued and DHS is complying with the intervening court order," a DHS representative told The Hill in an email.

"Today’s Federal Register Notice is evidence of that continued compliance. What is often not reported is that the Trump Administration has forcefully advocated for Congressional action to provide legal status for long-standing TPS beneficiaries in good standing: a change to the law is needed, not judicial intervention,” added the official.

Immigrant rights activists welcomed the notice, but warned the livelihood of TPS holders is still at risk.

“This extension gives space to breathe to some of us, however thousands of TPS holders who are not included in this lawsuit are still in limbo without any court protections," said Hiwaida Elarabi, a plaintiff and TPS holder from Sudan, in a statement.

The ruling covers about 240,000 TPS holders; a separate court case has blocked Trump administration orders to remove about 57,000 Honduran and 9,000 Nepali TPS beneficiaries.

TPS has failed to gain as much congressional support as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects immigrants without legal status who arrived in the United States as minors.

But support for TPS holders — especially long-term residents of the United States — has become more visible as the program's been targeted by the Trump administration.

TPS will be included in a new version of the DREAM Act set to be unveiled by House Democrats next month, according to Roll Call.

The DREAM Act, including its TPS addition, is expected to be well-received by Democrats in Congress.

While a small set of Republicans are strong supporters of TPS, that cadre was reduced last year by retirements and midterm election losses.

“While we welcome this victory, it cannot distract from the urgency and need for robust legislative reform that provides permanent solutions for all TPS holders," said José Palma, a spokesman for the National TPS Alliance.

This post was updated March 1 at 12:35 p.m. to reflect the DHS response.