WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Department of Homeland Security’s extension of Temporary Protected Status for 6,900 Syrians in the United States since 2016 leaves hundreds of more recently arrived refugees at risk, said the executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network.

CLINIC’s Jeanne Atkinson called the Jan. 31 decision by Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen to extend rather than re-designate TPS for Syrians an “arbitrary decision with life-or-death consequences.”

“Syrians living in the U.S. should not be expected to return to a dangerous war zone,” Atkinson said in a statement.

“Even in the unlikely event that Syria’s civil war was to end tomorrow, the country’s housing, roads, medical, education and social infrastructure is in tatters. It’s inconceivable that the country is able to welcome its citizens back to any semblance of normal life,” she said.

Nielsen’s announcement to extend TPS for Syria until Sept. 30, 2019, pertains to Syrians who have lived in the U.S. since Aug. 1, 2016, and have been physically present in the country since Oct. 1, 2016.

“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 in a statement.

Syrians covered under the program must re-register to maintain their legal status to work.

About 2,000 Syrians who arrived since 2016 are not covered by the decision. A news release announcing Nielsen’s decision said they can seek other ways to remain in the country.

Atkinson called on the government to do more to protect Syrians.

In addition to re-designating TPS, she said the country “should resume accepting refugees at previous levels.”

“The well-established resettlement network operated largely by Catholic and other faith-based agencies stands ready to continue helping Syrians and other refugees, if only the United States would admit them,” Atkinson said.

Under TPS, protected immigrants can live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation for 18 months at a time if they pay hundreds of dollars for permits.