Some 270 Groups Press Obama to Extend ‘Temporary’ Amnesty to Central American Illegal Immigrants

File Photo: Reuters/Jose de Jesus Cortes

Immigration activists are urging President Obama to shield hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants from Central American from deportation by extending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

More than 270 “civil rights, labor rights, faith-based, immigrant, human rights, humanitarian, and legal service organizations” dispatched a letter to Obama on Monday requesting that his administration grant migrants from the “Northern Triangle countries” TPS due to violence in their home countries.

TPS is a designation granted to foreign nationals from countries where there are “extraordinary and temporary conditions” that prevent them from returning home safely. Foreign nationals granted TPS are protected from deportation, eligible for work permits, and may be granted travel authorizations.

“These three countries warrant TPS designation in light of the dramatically escalating violence that has precipitated a humanitarian crisis of refugees fleeing the Northern Triangle countries,” the 273 organizations, led by the  National Immigrant Justice Center and Immigrant Legal Resource Center, wrote.

In recent years the U.S.-Mexico border has experienced a deluge of illegal immigration from Central America. More than 300,000 illegal immigrants adults traveling with children and unaccompanied minors have arrived in the U.S. — many expecting to be allowed to stay — since FY 2013.

While Democrats and activists have argued that “push” factors like violence are the reason for the illegal immigration, Republicans and immigration hawks say Obama’s executive amnesty and lax immigration enforcement policies have inspired the northward migration.

In their missive, the groups argue that granting TPS would not encourage more illegal immigration, and they’re pressing Obama to “promptly” reply to their “urgent” request.

“Certainly, your Administration has not shied away from taking bold action to exercise its discretionary authority to establish Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals despite critics’ unfounded and speculative allegations that such exercise would drive others to migrate here,” the organizations wrote, referencing Obama’s 2012 executive actions to give de facto legal status and work permits to certain illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors.

The 273 organizations join the recent calls for the administration to extend TPS to  El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras — including Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, 145 House Democrats, and 22 Senate Democrats.

A report released earlier this month by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center found that if the U.S. were to extend or re-designate TPS for El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, more than 757,422 illegal immigrants from Central Americans could be granted “temporary” relief from deportation and work permits.

The request comes on the heels of Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement that the administration is extending the refugee program to resettle people from Central America in the U.S.