Around 300 organizations sent a letter Monday asking U.S. President Barack Obama to grant Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, to undocumented immigrants fleeing violence in Central America's Northern Triangle - El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
"TPS is grounded in clear statutory authority that was established by Congress 25 years ago to respond to humanitarian crises like we are seeing in the Northern Triangle," Royce Murray, policy director at Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center, said.
"Knowing the violence that is occurring in these countries, and how their governments have failed to keep their own citizens safe, it would be unconscionable to deport anyone there at this time. It is exactly the type of situation TPS is intended to address," he said.
TPS originated as a way to assist people from countries battered by natural disaster or internal armed conflict.
The organizations' petition came just a few weeks after the Department of Homeland Security launched a new roundup operation to detain and deport Central American immigrants that arrived in the country last year in the latest wave of immigration from the Northern Triangle.
"There is no factual or legal barrier that prevents the Obama administration from expanding TPS to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras," Jose Magana-Salgado, immigration policy attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, said.
"Congress provided the executive branch substantial latitude in designating countries for TPS and it is incumbent on this administration to exercise that authority. To do otherwise would be to continue to deport Central Americans to their deaths," the expert said.
The organizations say that over 17,000 people were murdered in 2015 in the Northern Triangle, a geographical region the size of Oregon and the home of just under 30 million people.
Over the past six years, the three countries have been among the four countries in the world with the highest murder rates of women and girls, while El Salvador and Guatemala have had the highest rates of children murdered.
A recent report by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center estimates that more than 750,000 Central Americans could benefit from an increase in TPS, which has benefited Honduras and El Salvador for years, ever since the natural disasters they suffered in the late 1990s and early 2000s. EFE