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ICYMI: “T.P.S. was meant to protect immigrants from global danger zones. Now thousands may face deportation”

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In the span of one month, the Trump administration decided to extend but not redesignate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Somalia and Yemen, abandoning thousands who would benefit from the status. Kevin Clarke at American Jesuit Review has an article exploring the decisions and highlights expert opinion from legal and faith groups like the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on these dangerous decisions by the administration.

Clarke’s reporting is excerpted below and online here.

The Trump administration agreed to an 18-month extension of Temporary Protected Status for Somali immigrant residents in the United States on Jan. 17. That was good news for about 500 Somalis and their families now protected from deportation who had achieved that status before 2012, the last year Somalia was redesignated under the program. But the Department of Homeland Security chose not to redesignate Somalia as a T.P.S.-eligible state this time. That move had been sought by advocates who hoped to extend protected status to hundreds of other Somalis who arrived in the United States after 2012.

Jill Marie Bussey, advocacy director for Clinic, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, called that decision “senseless and cruel,” pointing out in a statement released on Jan. 17 that security conditions in Somalia have not only failed to improve, “in some cases they are deteriorating.”

… According to Clinic, living conditions in Somalia “continue to be dire due to armed conflict, climate extremes…and devastating food shortages. At least 2.6 million people are displaced in Somalia and 5.2 million people, nearly half the population, are in need of humanitarian aid.”

… Somalis and Yemenis are only the latest immigrant communities whose status has come under critical scrutiny by a White House that has looked askance at the entire T.P.S. category. An estimated 325,000 migrants from 13 T.P.S.-designated countries currently reside in the United States. But tens of thousands of them have lost that status as the Trump White House pursues a policy, as one supporter of the White House’s T.P.S. posture put it, of “putting the ‘T’” for temporary back into the designation.

Over the last three years the administration has terminated protected status for about 98 percent of current T.P.S. holders, according to Jose Magana-Salgado, campaign coordinator for Clinic. Those terminations have for now been blocked by federal courts, but rulings in favor of the administration could begin a 120-day countdown for hundreds of thousands of T.P.S. holders to return home. Most have lived in the United States for more than 10 years and have started businesses or careers here; many have become parents to children who are American citizens.

… “The only folks who are saying that these terminations were a good thing were top officials at the administration. Virtually everyone else disagrees—on a policy basis, on a religious basis, on just a practical basis,” Mr. Magana-Salgado said.

Ashley Feasley, director of policy at the Office of Migration Policy and Public Affairs at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, pointed out that one of the criteria for terminating T.P.S. is that “the country of origin is able to safely accept the return of its nationals.” That prerequisite, Ms. Feasley argued, is simply being ignored as the White House presses to return T.P.S. holders to violence-wracked or unstable nations. U.S.C.C.B. fact-finding missions in 2017 to Honduras, El Salvador and Haiti “make the case,” she said, that there was no possible way those countries “could safely accept and integrate their nationals back.”

… Legislation meant to resolve that dilemma passed the House of Representatives last June but now faces a hard slog in the U.S. Senate. U.S. bishops have thrown their support behind H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act. It creates a path for citizenship for T.P.S. holders and addresses the status of “Dreamers,” current residents brought without documentation into the United States as children, and other problematic immigration categories.

Until that legislation or something like it is passed, hundreds of thousands of T.P.S. holders—parents of 273,000 U.S.-born children—and their families will continue to live in acute uncertainty, Ms. Feasely pointed out. “We need to integrate [T.P.S. holders] and allow them full status and participation in American life, which is citizenship,” she said.

Mr. Magana-Salgado hopes that U.S. Catholics will endorse a merciful response to the plight of T.P.S. holders hoping to remain in the United States and press their elected officials to do the same. “I think Catholic teaching says that we welcome the stranger, that we help those who need the most help and help vulnerable populations,” Mr. Magana-Salgado said. “At the end of the day it’s incumbent on all Catholic Americans to stand up and communicate to this administration that we have to welcome these people. They’re our neighbors, they’re friends—many have been for decades. And our country, our communities, our congregations are better off if they stay in the country.”