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TPS Decision for Syrians in US Imminent

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders Mohammad Alala and his wife, Dania, both from Syria, and their two U.S.-born children, Taim and Amr play, at a playground at their home in Miramar, Florida, Jan. 24, 2018.

Syrians living under Temporary Protected Status in the United States will know by Tuesday whether the Trump administration is extending those protections or canceling them, as it has done with three other countries in recent months.

The decision, due by January 30, will affect some 6,000 Syrians.

The TPS designation allows some nationals of countries facing natural disasters or extreme violence to remain in the U.S. and work legally.

Since it does not lead to permanent residency or citizenship, TPS beneficiaries who lose the status are subject to deportation — in this case, back to Syria, where civil war rages into a seventh year.

In 2016, the last time TPS was redesignated for Syria, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services cited the continuing armed conflict, which meant that "the return of Syrian nationals to Syria would pose a serious threat to their personal safety."

Syria is one of the more recent additions to the list of TPS countries. The country was designated worthy of TPS in 2012, before the rise of Islamic State violence. With the extremist group forced out of its de facto capital last year, "the country will now enter a new dangerous and pivotal phase, as the government continues to wage war to retake the country from opposition forces," according to a January report by the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, a non-profit group that provides legal services to immigrants.

"In all, Syria remains unstable, destroyed and wholly unsafe for the return of Syrian TPS holders at this time."

TPS Decisions. (V. Macci)
TPS Decisions. (V. Macci)

More than 50 national security and foreign policy experts signed a letter last week, asking Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to extend TPS for Syria. The signers argued that it is not just a humanitarian matter, but also one of national security.

"Our allies look to the United States for leadership," their letter said. "We have an opportunity to demonstrate that the safety and security of the people of Syria remains a primary objective of the U.S. approach. Ensuring those currently out of harm's way can safely remain in the United States, rather than face imminent danger, is critical to showing our allies we embrace this mission."

The Trump administration has cancelled TPS for four countries, most recently El Salvador, affecting almost 200,000 people. Announcements for Honduras, Nepal, Somalia and Yemen are expected later this year.