The United States has extended for another 18 months a special protected status that keeps some 7,000 Syrians from being deported back to their war-ravaged country, the Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday.
"After carefully considering conditions on the ground, I have determined that it is necessary to extend the Temporary Protected Status designation for Syria," Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement.
"It is clear that the conditions upon which Syria's designation was based continue to exist, therefore an extension is warranted under the statute," Nielsen said.
The extension lasts through September 30, 2019, and Nielsen will review conditions ahead of that date to determine whether it should be extended again or ended.
Only those who have been in the United States since Aug. 1, 2016, are eligible for that extension, disqualifying newer arrivals. Still, Neilsen said those who came to the US more recently "may be eligible to seek other forms of immigration relief."
President Donald Trump's administration has stripped protection from some 200,000 Salvadorans, 59,000 Haitians and 5,300 Nicaraguans -- some of whom had been in the country for decades. It argued that their crises have been resolved.
The Obama administration granted Syrians temporary protected status in 2012, the year after the war in Syria began, and extended it through the end of March. It re-designated Syria's protected status several times so that waves of Syrians who had arrived in later years of the conflict could qualify.