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Catholic Immigration Advocate Says Migrants’ TPS Extensions Helps But Is Not Enough

Bryan, an immigrant who says he came from Nicaragua and crossed the border to the U.S. from Mexico seeking asylum, sheds tears outside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection office near El Paso, Texas, May 9, 2023, where he was directed by U.S. border authorities. (OSV News Photo)

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration’s recent announcement that it would extend legal status for 300,000 immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Nepal by 18 months was described by a Catholic immigration advocate as a positive step but not enough.

“This is welcome relief for so many families aided by our network,” said Anna Gallagher, executive director of Catholic Legal Immigration Network, known as CLINIC, noting that those who are legally in the United States on Temporary Protected Status, set to end soon under Trump-era rules, will now “continue to receive life-saving protection from deportation.”

But she noted that “newer arrivals will not benefit from this extension and thus will continue to live in fear.

“For the sake of justice, and as people of faith, we urge the administration to consider the thousands of men, women, and children who are equally in need of protection who arrived at a later date. Redesignating these countries for TPS will ensure they can remain in safety as well,” she said in a statement.

The extended legal protection offers “continued safety and protection” to immigrants from the four countries who are “already present in the United States and cannot return because of the impacts of environmental disasters,” said Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Some Democrats in Congress were also disappointed that the government’s action did not apply to people from more countries.

TPS is a 1990 law that allows immigrants in the U.S to stay for 18-month increments if the Department of Homeland Security has said that natural disasters or civil strife in their region prevents them from safely returning home. The program currently applies to 15 countries. It does not provide immigrants with a path to permanent residency or citizenship. 

The Trump administration tried to end several TPS programs but was blocked in federal court. It succeeded in ending the TPS programs for Haitian and Sudanese immigrants, which the Biden administration later changed and also expanded the number of immigrants from those two countries who were TPS eligible.

CLINIC’S executive director urged the Biden administration to redesignate TPS for Venezuela and to include Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Mauritania, Lebanon, Sudan, Pakistan, and Turkey for TPS status.

 “Through TPS, the United States has a legal pathway to offer generous protection to those fearing return to their home countries,” Gallagher said.  “We have the resources and capacity. It’s time we lived up to our potential.”