Jan. 11 (UPI) -- A Republican lawmaker wants to give permanent residency to the approximately 400,000 immigrants in the United States affected by the Trump administration's decision to end their Temporary Protected Status.
But he also wants to end the TPS program entirely.
The TPS Act of 2018, introduced by Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., would end the 28-year-old program while granting permanent legal residency to those its recipients from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua.
The total number of people that could potentially be granted legal residency is approximately 462,000, many of whom have been in the country for nearly 30 years.
"This legislation will help those who have been living and working in the United States, under TPS for many years, to have a legal status that would give them a path to legal permanent residency and remove the fear of deportation," Coffman said in a statement.
Coffman's office added that he is "is sympathetic to those under TPS, who have been here so long that they have become part of the fabric of our communities with not only children born in the United States but sometimes even grandchildren."
In his call to eliminate TPS altogether, Coffman's bill addresses a major criticism of the program.
TPS was created in 1990 to grant temporary residency to people from countries affected by war, natural disasters and humanitarian disasters until those conditions were improved. But even after conditions improved, the State Department has continually renewed TPS for the program's recipients, prolonging their time in the United States. In effect, many have been in the country legally for decades and going back to their home country would be an immense hardship.
"We need to help people with humanitarian aid where they are instead of having them come to the United States," Coffman said. "This program was a really bad idea from the start and is completely unrealistic in thinking that, once here, they would be willing to return to their home countries where conditions may have improved but are still nowhere near the living conditions here in the United States."
Earlier this week, the Trump administration announced an end to TPS for more than 200,000 Salvadorans who have been living in the United States legally since 2001, when a major earthquake affected El Salvador.
The administration previously announced an end to TPS for people from Haiti and Nicaragua.
All TPS recipients from El Salvador, Haiti and Nicaragua were given 18 months to return to their country or apply for other visas to stay in the United States.