DHS Extends Temporary Protected Status For 500 Somalis

Will Racke | Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter

The Trump administration announced Thursday that temporary protections for Somali nationals living in the U.S. will be extended for another 18 months.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen made the decision after an interagency review determined conditions on the ground in Somalia warranted an extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS), the department said in a news release.

There are currently about 500 TPS-designated Somali nationals living in the U.S., according to DHS. The extension will allow them to remain in the country with work authorization until March 17, 2020.

Created by Congress in 1991, TPS is a humanitarian program that allows people from countries affected by war, famine or other humanitarian disasters to stay in the U.S. until conditions improve at home. Though it is meant to be a temporary humanitarian reprieve, TPS has in some cases turned into a de facto immigration program for people from countries that have held the designation for decades.

Former President George H. W. Bush first granted TPS to Somalia in 1991, as the country’s authoritarian government collapsed in a civil war. The designation has been extended 22 times since then, allowing many Somalis who otherwise had no immigration status to stay in the U.S. for many years.

Somalia remains mired in conflict, as Islamic militants, tribal warlords and the U.S.-backed government in Mogadishu vie for control of the country. The fighting has displaced more than 1 million residents and turned Somalia into one of the poorest and most dangerous countries in the world.

Nielsen’s decision comes about two weeks after a similar TPS extension for Yemen, which is also the site of one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Approximately 1,250 Yemeni TPS beneficiaries will be allowed to renew their benefits through March 3, 2020.

In other cases, however, the Trump administration has sought to wind down TPS protections for people from countries it says no longer merit the designation. Over the past year, the countries that have lost TPS include El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua and Sudan. (RELATED: Trump Is Putting ‘Temporary’ Back In TPS)

Altogether, roughly 400,000 people from those countries will have to return home unless they qualify for another immigration benefit.

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