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Congressional Black Caucus Leads Effort Urging Biden to Enact Temporary Protected Status for Caribbean and African Nations

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Sixty-six House Democrats are urging the Biden administration to act on critical relief for immigrant communities, including using its legal authority to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to a number of Caribbean and African countries. The letter, signed by Congressional Black Caucus First Vice Chair Yvette Clark and 65 of her House colleagues, also urges President Biden to protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and address the green card and work permit backlogs.

“The policies of the Trump administration only served to exacerbate the harmful impacts of the long-standing disparities within our immigration system,” lawmakers said in the letter. “From a discriminatory travel ban targeting African countries, to family separation policies that inflicted long-lasting harm on Black immigrant families arriving at the border, to frequent attempts to terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for foreign nationals from places like Haiti, Black immigrant communities seem to disproportionately face any number of burdens not placed on other immigrant groups.”

“These measures instilled fear and disrupted the lives of countless individuals and families, and to this day we continue to hear about the lasting effects of these policies from our constituents,” lawmakers continued. Black immigrants also face greater risks of deportation and abuses within the federal immigration detention system, data has shown.

Lawmakers say that the Biden administration can take significant steps to address inequities faced by Black immigrants by bestowing TPS designations and redesignations for qualifying nations, including Haiti, Sudan, South Sudan, Cameroon, Mali, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritania, and Nigeria. In the Senate, bipartisan lawmakers have previously urged relief for Mauritanians, saying individuals could face statelessness and torture if they are returned. 

It’s a fact that allowing TPS beneficiaries to work legally only adds to the existing contributions that immigrants make to communities all across the nation. TPS and Deferred Enforced Departure holders pay an estimated $4.6 billion annually in local, state and federal taxes. “TPS holders from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti are employed at high rates,” and play key roles in the construction, restaurant, food service, and child care industries, the Center for American Progress said in 2017.

“Black immigrants are the fastest-growing immigrant group in the U.S,” lawmakers continued. “They bring unique perspectives, diverse talents, and valuable skills that enrich our nation. They have forged deep connections and are an integral part of our country.”

The Biden administration can – and should – extend relief to nations where conditions make it too dangerous for nationals to return. The Biden administration just this past month used its authority to extend TPS for current holders from El Salvador, Honduras, Nepal and Nicaragua for another 18 months, but missed a critical opportunity to expand eligibility beyond existing recipients. Advocates have continued urging the administration to go further.

“Ours is a nation of immigrants, and diversity will always be our country’s strength,” lawmakers added. “Our willingness to accept newcomers into our nation is a key component of our global influence and soft power. It is imperative we prioritize comprehensive immigration reform, so we can address the inequities faced by Black immigrants within our immigration system. We must foster our immigration system which upholds the values of justice, fairness, inclusiveness, and compassion.”

The letter was supported by a number of immigrant, civil rights, and faith-based organizations, several of them Black-led. “We urge President Biden to embrace Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for African countries, recognizing it as a significant opportunity to enhance the US-African partnership and to make direct investments in the Nigerian community already residing in the United States,” said Gbenga Ogunjimi, Founder & CEO of Nigerian Center. 

Diana Konaté, Policy Director at African Communities Together, said the organization joined the effort to urge “President Biden to advance policies that promote immigration relief for Black immigrants and transform our system into one that lives up to the values of this nation.”