Three Democratic senators -- including Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen -- introduced legislation Thursday to allow certain immigrants with temporary legal status in the United States to apply for residency.
Maryland has the sixth-highest number of residents benefiting from Temporary Protected Status in the country -- about 23,000 -- according to the Center for Migration Studies. The vast majority of those individuals in the state are from El Salvador.
The 27-year-old program shields some immigrants from deportation during periods of conflict or national disaster in their home countries.
The Trump administration said last week that it is ending that status for some 5,300 Nicaraguan nationals who have been living in the United States since 1998. That has alarmed Salvadorans, Haitians, and others who are in the country under similar protection.
The legislation is unlikely to advance. The Republican-led Congress has struggled to approve its own priorities, let alone taking up issues that have traditionally been supported mostly by Democrats.
"These men and women have lived here legally for years,” Van Hollen said in a statement. "They have jobs and businesses and are our neighbors. We cannot in good faith send them back to some of the most dangerous places in the world."
Cardin agreed, saying that "we need to stand up for the American values of compassion and diversity that have made this country stronger." He said that ending the program would "rip families apart."
Critics of TPS have questioned why a decades-old earthquake or hurricane is being used to justify allowing people -- many of whom came to the country illegally -- to stay in the United States indefinitely.