DHS gives temporary protected status to Afghans in US
The Biden administration will offer temporary protected status (TPS) to Afghans, a move that will aid those who escaped the country in the U.S.-led evacuation but who otherwise could face deportation as soon as August.
The designation allows Afghans in the U.S. by March 15 to remain for another 18 months.
“This TPS designation will help to protect Afghan nationals who have already been living in the United States from returning to unsafe conditions,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a release.
“Under this designation, TPS will also provide additional protections and assurances to trusted partners and vulnerable Afghans who supported the U.S. military, diplomatic and humanitarian missions in Afghanistan over the last 20 years.”
The move will help several thousand Afghans, including those in the U.S. on student visas.
But it will primarily aid the 76,000 who escaped in the chaotic evacuation, many of whom were given humanitarian parole to enter the country, a process that allows the government to temporarily waive immigration requirements.
Immigration officials, however, in some cases gave Afghans as little as one year to regularize their status in the U.S., leaving many evacuees fighting a ticking clock to find a pathway to remain in the U.S. by the end of August.
In making the determination, DHS pointed to the ongoing armed conflict as well as “a collapsing public sector, a worsening economic crisis, drought, food and water insecurity, lack of access to healthcare, internal displacement, human rights abuses and repression by the Taliban, destruction of infrastructure, and increasing criminality.”
Still, the move comes months after initial lobbying for TPS for Afghans, a delay brought into sharper focus when the administration designated TPS for Ukrainians just days into the Russian invasion.
The administration faced a more complex situation in addressing Afghans, however, as immigration and refugee groups have pushed for passage of a bill that would offer evacuees a pathway to citizenship.
While TPS will allow Afghans to remain in the U.S., it by nature only offers temporary protection, leaving its recipients in limbo until it is extended again, a move that often falls just days before its set to expire.
“While TPS for Afghanistan is an important protection tool, it does not address the legal limbo faced by tens of thousands of Afghans evacuated to the U.S. on humanitarian parole. Our nation’s moral obligation to our Afghan allies and friends demands the stability that only a pathway to permanent residence can provide,” Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said in calling for passage of the Afghan Adjustment Act.
“Legislators have the mold from previous adjustment acts and the overwhelming support of Americans across the political spectrum. Congress must enshrine in law that our nation’s promise of protection is anything but temporary.”
The Biden administration is also still facing calls to do more for Afghans who remain in the country, many of whom don’t qualify for the refugee program established to aid those who assisted in various U.S.-aligned efforts. Access to the broader U.S. refugee program requires leaving the country — another difficult task for most Afghans.
Meredith Owen, director of policy and advocacy at Church World Service, a refugee organization, said the Biden administration needs to “expand and expedite access to life-saving refugee protections.”
“It is imperative that the administration uphold its promises to the countless vulnerable Afghans who were left behind at risk of violence and persecution and continue to provide safety for people under threat,” she said in a statement.
Updated at 10:20 a.m.
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