SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - The United States has extended a protected status program that prevents migrants from being deported to mid-2024 for citizens of six countries, including Haiti and three Central American nations, its immigration service said on Thursday.
The Temporary Protected Status (TPS) will be extended to June 30, 2024, for citizens of Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Sudan, Honduras, and Nepal, according to a document filed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The action means their status will no longer expire at the end of the year.
The TPS program provides recipients work permits and can protect them from deportation if their home countries go through extraordinary events such as natural disaster or armed conflict.
The extension will affect about 392,000 people, of whom some 242,000 are citizens of El Salvador, according to USCIS data.
"Thanks be to God," said Salvadoran Ambassador to the United States Milena Mayorga, tweeting a link to the document.
The extension gives Hondurans in the program "peace of mind for another 18 months," Honduran Foreign Minister Eduardo Reina said at a news conference.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the extension "to ensure its continued compliance" with orders proceeding from two ongoing court cases, said the document, which was sent to the federal register and is set to be officially published on Nov. 16.
President Joe Biden's administration in October pulled out of settlement talks that could have provided further protections to the TPS enrollees from those countries, and put them at risk of losing their status, according to plaintiffs in one of the cases.
The DHS said in a statement the decision Thursday was "consistent with DHS's practice over the last four years."
The extension "is a huge relief" for those enrolled in the program, said U.S. Senator Alex Padilla, a Democrat who chairs a Judiciary subcommittee on immigration.
Padilla called the move "a step in the right direction" but said more permanent protections were needed.
(Reporting by Nelson Renteria in San Salvador, Kylie Madry in Mexico City and Ted Hesson in Washington; Additional reporting by Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa; Editing by David Gregorio and Rosalba O'Brien)