The Trump administration said Thursday it will extend special immigration protections for Haiti and three other countries until January 2020.
The decision by the Department of Homeland Security, announced Thursday, gives thousands of Haitians an additional six-month reprieve from deportation, but holders of Temporary Protected Status still face uncertainty as the Trump administration continues to fight in the courts to end the program.
The decision affects Haitians, Salvadorans, Nicaraguans and Sudanese in the United States.
“This extension gives space to breathe to some of us. However, thousands of TPS holders who are not included in this lawsuit are still in limbo without any court protections,” said Hiwaida Elarabi, a TPS holder from Sudan and one of the plaintiffs in a California court case that led to the extension.
The extension affects over 300,000 people who have been allowed to temporarily live and work in the U.S. after war or major natural disasters in their own countries.
In October, U.S. District Judge Edward Chen granted a preliminary injunction stopping the administration and the Homeland Security from terminating TPS for immigrants from Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Sudan.
“TPS for those countries will not be terminated unless and until any superseding, final, non-appealable judicial order permits the implementation of such termination,” the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services order says.
A DHS official said TPS was terminated as required by law by the Secretary for a number of countries, but that DHS is complying with the intervening court order.
“Today’s Federal Register Notice is evidence of that continued compliance,” the official said. “What is often not reported is that the Trump Administration has forcefully advocated for Congressional action to provide legal status for long-standing TPS beneficiaries in good standing: a change to the law is needed, not judicial intervention.”
The government has appealed the judge’s ruling. The California case is one of five lawsuits that have been filed challenging the administration’s decision to rescind the temporary protection. In January, a federal trial in New York ended with internal government emails showing that the administration was so determined to end the program for Haitians that it ignored its own government’s research flagging health and safety concerns in Haiti.
A decision in the case isn’t expected until after Friday.
Advocates said the DHS announcement means TPS holders and those fighting for a legislative fix now have more time to get a bill through Congress protecting both TPS holders and immigrants brought to the U.S. as children who receive protections under the DACA program.
Supporters of Venezuela are also pushing for temporary protections for thousands of Venezuelans currently living in the United States without legal status.
On Thursday, U.S. Senators Bob Menendez, (D-N.J) Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) introduced the Venezuela Temporary Protected Status Act of 2019, a bill that would immediately grant TPS to eligible Venezuelans fleeing the dire conditions in their home country.
For the moment, Thursday’s announcement means that as many as 60,000 Haitians who faced deportation as of July 22 can breathe a temporary sigh of relief.
“For federal D.C. policy advocates like myself, the extension is good because it gives us more time to recalibrate our legislative, regulatory and political strategy,” said Maritza T. Adonis, the 2018 Federal TPS Campaign Consultant for the Florida Immigrant Coalition.
But Adonis, CEO of MTA Visions, also fears that the announcement may send the wrong message to Congress and lead lawmakers to believe that they have time to act, or defer to the courts.
“The ball is ultimately in their court to fix the law and provide relief to those impacted by the law’s loose ends,” she said.