Aug 1, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Trump extends temporary protections for Syrians in the U.S.

The Trump administration is extending for 18 months protections that allow 7,000 Syrians to remain in the U.S. temporarily rather than return to their war-torn country, the Department of Homeland Security announced on Thursday.

Why it matters: Syria remains plagued by violence. More than 100 Syrians died in air strikes in just the past 10 days, the BBC reports, and 6.7 million Syrian refugees have been forced to leave the country. This move comes despite efforts by the administration to roll back Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for several other countries.

  • Despite today’s extension, DHS said the protections would not apply to Syrians who arrived in the U.S. after August 1, 2016.

The big picture: Congress created the TPS program in 1990 to provide legal immigration status in 6-18 month increments for people from nations impacted by ongoing armed conflict, environmental disasters or other severe yet temporary conditions.

  • TPS has since been granted to people from 22 different countries or territories, according to the American Immigration Council.
  • The Homeland Security secretary has the power to decide whether temporary protections should be extended or allowed to expire, dependent on how conditions have improved in home nations.

There were 13 nations covered under TPS when Trump took office, though protections for three West African countries affected by an Ebola outbreak expired within a few months.

Between the lines: The Trump administration has argued that the protections are designed to be temporary, and the conditions on which they were granted are no longer relevant for many countries.

  • But emails between DHS officials released in court filings last year revealed concerted efforts to justify ending TPS. One official even agreed to try to make conditions in Central America appear better than they actually were.
  • That led to speculation the administration could end protections for Syrians this week, though it ultimately decided not to do so.

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