Advocates urge Trump to extend protected status for Yemenis amid civil war

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Dozens of former U.S. officials and advocacy groups are urging the Trump administration to extend next week temporary protected status (TPS) for citizens of Yemen who are in the United States.

Thirty-three national security experts and 60 nongovernmental organizations sent letters to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen asking them to extend the designation for the civil war-ravaged country.

“These conditions demand both the extension of TPS for an estimated 1,200 individuals in the United States and its re-designation for Yemeni immigrants who seek to reside here without fear of deportation and separation from their families,” the experts wrote in their letter, obtained by The Hill ahead of its release. “We urge you to take these steps as a small but vital protective measure that neither they nor the United States can do without.”

{mosads}Signatories on the experts letter include former Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken; former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power; and former U.S. ambassadors to Yemen Barbara Bodine, Gerald Feierstein, William Rugh and Stephen Seche.

TPS designation allows citizens from countries hit by armed conflict or natural disaster to live and work in the United States for a limited time while their country is too dangerous to return to. The Trump administration has terminated TPS status for citizens of several countries, including Nepal, El Salvador, Sudan, Nicaragua and Haiti.

The deadline to decide whether to extend the designation for Yemen is July 5.

Yemen has been embroiled in a brutal civil war since 2015. The conflict has killed an estimated 6,385 civilians as of May, according to the U.N. human rights office.

In their letter, the experts argued it is in the national security interest of the United States to extend TPS status for Yemen, saying the “sudden return” of 1,200 people will undermine diplomatic efforts to end the war, which the Trump administration says it supports.

“If forced to return, these Yemenis are likely to be targeted by militias, join the swelling numbers of internal refugees, or otherwise find themselves in acute need of humanitarian relief,” they wrote. “Such a return could also bolster the propaganda efforts of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the self-described Islamic State, whose defeat in Yemen is an ongoing U.S. national security objective.”

The advocacy groups, meanwhile, argued it would be “beyond heartless” to force Yemenis to return to the country. 

“The State Department’s January 2018 travel advisory confirms that ‘No part of Yemen is safe from violence,’” they wrote. “Therefore, it would be beyond heartless and cruel to forcibly ship our neighbors, mothers, fathers and children back to a country that our own government has defined as one of the most dangerous and dire places on the planet.”

Tags Kirstjen Nielsen Mike Pompeo Samantha Power
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