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U.S. Extends Temporary Deportation Protection To Syrians

Members of the Syrian community celebrate Syrian Independence Day during a ceremony at St. George Orthodox Church in Allentown, Pa., in April 2018.
Matt Smith
Members of the Syrian community celebrate Syrian Independence Day during a ceremony at St. George Orthodox Church in Allentown, Pa., in April 2018.

The Trump administration said it will allow some 7,000 Syrians living in the U.S. to remain under a temporary program that protects them from deportation.

The announcement to extend temporary protected status for an additional 18 months was made by Department of Homeland Security acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan in a statement issued Thursday.

"The decision to extend TPS for Syria was made after a review of the conditions upon which the country's designation is based, which was ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions, as well as an assessment of whether those conditions continue to exist as required by statute," McAleenan wrote.

After an interagency consultation process, McAleenan said, "The conditions supporting Syria's designation for TPS continue to exist."

The Trump administration has tried to end TPS for citizens of a number of countries, includingNepal, Haiti and Sudan, but court challenges have stalled those efforts. The program grants protections to citizens of countries hit by war, natural disasters and other conditions.

Immigrant advocates say the administration stopped short of allowing more Syrians into the program, even though the country is still ravaged by civil war. Oxfam says this means an additional 7,000 Syrians in the U.S. won't be able to seek TPS.

"We are relieved there is another period of protection for current TPS holders but urge the Trump administration and Congress to find a longer-term solution to their precarious legal situation. There is little hope for Syrian TPS holders to be able to safely return to their country in the near future — even the State Department has deemed Syria as categorically unsafe," said Daryl Grisgraber, the Oxfam America humanitarian policy lead.

In April, the U.S. State Department issued a Level 4 Travel Advisory warningAmericans: "Do not travel to Syria due to terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping,andarmed conflict. No part of Syria is safe from violence."

McAleenan's statement underscored the temporary aspect of TPS.

"Over the next 18 months, the Acting Secretary will review conditions in Syria to determine whether its designation should be extended again or terminate," he wrote. "The Secretary will make the next decision to extend or terminate the designation for Syria on or before January 30, 2021."

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Richard Gonzales is NPR's National Desk Correspondent based in San Francisco. Along with covering the daily news of region, Gonzales' reporting has included medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California relevant to the rest of the country.