On Tuesday June 13th, the Biden administration has made a decision to allow thousands of immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Nepal who are currently residing in the United States under Temporary Protected Status to renew their work permits for an additional 18 months. This move reverses a previous directive issued during the Trump era that aimed to revoke the humanitarian protections provided to these individuals.
The decision made by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas ensures that more than 330,000 people will retain their protections, granting them the permission to live and work in the United States until 2025.
This news brings relief to immigrants who have been granted TPS in the United States. However, some individuals expressed disappointment that the protections are still limited to those who arrived in the country years ago. There were hopes that the Biden administration would introduce a fresh designation to include more recent arrivals.
The Department of Homeland Security clarified that while the protection for each group will be extended for 18 months, the expiration dates in 2025 will differ based on the original designation dates of each group.
To be eligible for the renewal of their work permits, Salvadorans, who form the largest group with nearly 240,000 people under provisional status, must have been in the United States since February 13, 2001, when their country was devastated by earthquakes. Hondurans and Nicaraguans must have resided in the country since December 30, 1998, following Hurricane Mitch, while Nepalis since June 24, 2015, after an earthquake occurred in their home country.
Former President Donald Trump had attempted to terminate these protections, asserting that the emergencies that led the U.S. government to offer temporary refuge to these groups were no longer applicable.
Civil liberties groups took legal action in 2018, alleging that the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the status was arbitrary and motivated by racism, in violation of the Constitution. A federal judge in California ruled in favor of the advocates, temporarily blocking the terminations.
In September 2020, the 9th Circuit appeals court overturned the decision by a 2-1 majority, shortly before the presidential election. However, the terminations did not take immediate effect.
Following President Biden’s inauguration, lawyers representing the Justice Department and the immigrants involved attempted to reach a settlement in the case. However, negotiations broke down towards the end of last year. The plaintiffs then requested the appeals court to reconsider the case with a panel of 11 judges, which the court agreed to, scheduling a hearing for June 22.
Some legal analysts have suggested that the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to reverse the terminations made by the Trump administration could render the lawsuit irrelevant. However, the plaintiffs’ lawyers have stated that the situation remains unclear as of Tuesday.
During his campaign, President Biden criticized the Trump administration’s “politically motivated decisions to rescind protected status for hundreds of thousands of people” and pledged to preserve their protections while advocating for a pathway to U.S. citizenship.
Advocates had hoped that the Biden administration would establish a new eligibility date, allowing more recent immigrants from these countries to apply for TPS. However, the administration, facing challenges such as record numbers of apprehensions at the southern border and low approval ratings for its immigration policies, did not expand the program for these countries.
Individuals with TPS status are eligible for work permits, social security cards, and state driver’s licenses. However, it’s important to note that this status does not lead to citizenship. Many of these individuals have established themselves in careers, including healthcare and construction, own homes, and are raising children who are U.S. citizens.
According to the Pew Research Center, as of April, the Biden administration had extended Temporary Protected Status to approximately 670,000 people from 16 countries.