Trump administration extends special immigration status for Yemen citizens in US

Trump administration extends special immigration status for Yemen citizens in US
© Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday announced the extension of a special immigration status for citizens of Yemen living in the United States.

About 1,250 Yemeni nationals are covered by the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program, which allows citizens of countries that have undergone natural or man-made disasters to live and work in the U.S. The program protects foreign citizens who are already in the U.S., legally or illegally, when their home country is designated for protection after a disaster.


Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenLeft-leaning group to track which companies hire former top Trump aides Rosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' House Republican condemns anti-Trump celebrities during impeachment hearing MORE announced the 18-month extension, the longest period TPS designations can be extended.

Yemen was first designated for TPS on Sept. 3, 2015, six months after a civil war started there.

The internal conflict has raged on since then, with Houthi rebels and forces loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi each controlling large swaths of the country on the Arabian Peninsula.

Neighboring Saudi Arabia has intervened in the war, as have the local branches of al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

"After carefully reviewing conditions in Yemen with interagency partners, Secretary Nielsen determined that the ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions that support Yemen’s current designation for TPS continue to exist," the department said in a statement Thursday.

The extension applies only to current Yemeni TPS beneficiaries.

Peniel Ibe, a policy fellow for the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization that works to protect immigrants, advocated for a new TPS designation for Yemen.

“It’s critical that the Trump administration not only extend but also redesignate TPS for Yemen, which continues to struggle with extreme violence and poverty,” Ibe said in a statement. “A redesignation of TPS would allow more recently arrived Yemeni nationals to apply for protection through TPS — people who are fleeing from a U.S.-backed war in Yemen.” 

The Trump administration has ended TPS for a handful of countries, mostly in Latin America.

Those cancellations have left around 300,000 foreign citizens who had TPS, some for almost two decades, unsure of whether they will be allowed to remain in the United States past their new TPS end date.