WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The administration of President Joe Biden on Friday extended deportation relief for several thousand Syrian immigrants living in the United States, an early move that aligns with his broader pro-immigrant platform.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that acting Secretary David Pekoske would extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 6,700 eligible Syrians through September 2022 and allow an additional 1,800 people to file initial applications.
The program grants immigrants who cannot return to their countries safely, for reasons like natural disasters or armed conflict, the ability to stay and work in the United States legally for a defined period that can be renewed.
Biden, a Democrat who took office on Jan. 20, has pledged to embrace a more welcoming approach to refugees and immigrants. The stance contrasts with the hardline policies of former Republican President Donald Trump, who rolled back many humanitarian protections.
Trump largely sought to phase out enrollment in the TPS program for immigrants from Central American and other countries but was stymied by legal challenges. Despite his tough stance, his administration twice extended protections for Syrians due to ongoing armed conflict and limited access to medical care in the country. Trump, however, did not allow new applicants into the program.
With Biden’s designation, additional Syrians in the United States can now seek protection under TPS. The move fits with his broader plans to expand protections under the program.
Biden also pledged to grant TPS to immigrants from Venezuela due to the economic conditions in that country, although Trump had pre-empted that move by providing the protections through a similar program before he left office.
Additionally, the Biden transition team discussed the possibility of designating Guatemala and Honduras for the program, which could open protections to over a million people.
(Reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington D.C.; Editing by Dan Grebler)