Trump Grants Thousands of Syrians Permission to Stay in U.S.—for Now

The Trump administration has moved to extend temporary protection for nearly 7,000 Syrians living and working in the U.S. after the president cancelled the programs protecting them. 

Syrians had been shielded from deportation under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) humanitarian program, which ensures that people from countries affected by war, natural disasters and other crises will be protected from deportation.

The program had been set to expire on March 31, however, forcing President Donald Trump to make a decision on whether to extend it.

GettyImages-912917996 Smoke is seen billowing from the northern Syrian Kurdish town of Afrin on January 31. Turkey and allied Syrian rebel groups launched operation Olive Branch on January 20 against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which controls the region SHAFIE BILAL/AFP/Getty

Now, those who have been living and working in the U.S. since before August 2016 will have their TPS rights protected. Those who entered the country after that time, however, will be excluded from the program.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said "ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary conditions" provided grounds for giving Syrians in the program another year and a half to stay in the U.S., according to the Associated Press. 

"After carefully considering conditions on the ground, I have determined that it is necessary to extend," she continued. 

Read more: Syria's war in 2018 sees U.S. allies kill each other as Russia struggles to make peace

Nielsen added that while those who entered the U.S. after August 1, 2016 will not be eligible for the extension, they "may be eligible to seek other forms of immigration relief."

While news that the government will be extending protection for Syrians offered temporary relief to thousands, advocacy groups have called for a more permanent solution.

“Although we welcome the decision to extend TPS for Syrian nationals for 18 months, the administration’s decision against redesignation will condemn thousands of families to violence and death by forcing their return to a country devastated by war," said Kica Matos, spokeswoman for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM).

"These aren’t our values as a country. We fight for freedom and opportunity, and we extend our arms to those fleeing persecution and violence. Under this administration, we are slamming the doors shut on those who desperately need our protection."

She added: "Congress must act quickly to enact a permanent legislative solution for Syrians, as well as individuals who are facing deportation after the termination of their TPS designation. We are better than this white supremacist agenda being executed by Trump and his administration."

The Syrian civil war has been raging for more than six years with no sign of a resolution in the near future, with international powers, including the U.S., backing various factions.