STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
President Trump's administration says some Syrians may stay in the United States. The administration has been revoking temporary protected status for many people who fled danger in their home countries. It reached a different conclusion for 7,000 Syrians. They can remain past a March 30 deadline, although no one else may apply for protected status. NPR's Deborah Amos reports.
DEBORAH AMOS, BYLINE: The decision was a relief for Syrians who already have TPS. They get to stay for another 18 months. They can live and work legally in the U.S. without fear of deportation. Most originally came here to study or to visit family. But the decision was a disappointment to other Syrians who were shut out of the program. If they came to the U.S. after August 2016, they're not eligible to apply.
When announcing the renewal late on Wednesday, Homeland Security officials didn't explain why some Syrians were eligible and others were not. TPS, Temporary Protected Status, is granted for natural disasters, the outbreak of disease and ongoing armed conflict. The Obama administration decided Syrians needed protection in 2012 and routinely renewed TPS every 18 months. But the Trump administration has taken a different approach, rolling back the program, canceling protections for Central Americans and Haitians. Syrians fear they could be next.
The decision to extend TPS is an acknowledgement that Syria meets the program's definition - a country still in the grip of a violent civil war. It's a view promoted by Rex Tillerson, the U.S. secretary of state, who said in a recent California speech that the story of Syria has been one of humanitarian catastrophe, and there was no guarantee of safety for returning refugees. Syrian advocates and human rights activists have denounced the administration's decision to limit TPS for some Syrians because it denies the reality Tillerson describes, they say. With a war still raging, Syrians say going home is not an option.
Deborah Amos, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.