Cardinal O'Malley urges administration to extend special immigration status

BRAINTREE -- Urging the Trump Administration to put aside "political calculations" in favor of "humanitarian obligations," Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley called for Temporary Protected Status to be renewed for the citizens of four countries: Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras.

The status, commonly known as TPS, authorizes employment and protection from deportation. It has been extended to immigrants from the four countries, which continue to struggle with violence, economic insecurity and the aftermath of natural disasters. Some immigrants have been in the U.S. for up to 20 years and have had TPS extended by previous administrations several times.

The Trump administration must decide by Jan. 8 of next year on TPS for Salvadorans, whose status is set to expire in March. TPS for Haitians will expire on Jan. 22, while the status for Hondurans has been temporarily extended until July.

The TPS designation for Nicaragua, which was established in 1999 after Hurricane Mitch devastated Central America, was not renewed, the Trump administration announced Nov. 6, only three days after Cardinal O'Malley's call for renewal.

Nicaraguans living in the country with TPS will have until Jan. 5, 2019 to either legalize their status or leave the U.S.

In a statement released Nov. 3, Cardinal O'Malley noted that currently, the conditions of all four countries would make any immediate returns of individuals with TPS "very dangerous or virtually impossible."

"I am calling upon and urging President Trump and his administration to again designate and extend TPS to individuals and their families for all four of these countries. This humanitarian crisis has both national and local implications for Massachusetts," he said.

"Nationally, there are an estimated 325,000 people with TPS," noted the cardinal, and in Massachusetts alone, home to the third largest Haitian diaspora, there are over 4,700 Haitians with TPS. Additionally, over 5,000 El Salvadorans with TPS live in the state.

"These are parents, workers, homeowners, taxpayers and members of our faith community," Cardinal O'Malley said.

Yet now, he continued, "people who are covered by TPS are living in a constant state of fear and anxiety, not knowing how they will be able to remain legally in the U.S. if TPS status is terminated. Families are at risk of being torn apart."

The TPS question is "critical and urgent," he said, and decisions around it "could leave thousands of people from four countries in a desperate situation."

"There are times when humanitarian obligations -- of charity, compassion and care -- should take precedence over political calculation. This is one of those moments. I pray that as a nation and a Commonwealth both public opinion and political choices will meet our obligations."

Catholic News Service materials contributed to this report.