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Impacted Immigrant, Experts Condemn Failure of Trump Administration to Redesignate Syria TPS

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On a press call this afternoon, Robert Ford, Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria, Rasha Ajalyaqeen, a Syrian U.S. legal resident whose family is directly impacted by this decision, and policy experts reacted to the Associated Press report that the Trump Administration decided to extend but not redesignate Syria TPS — meaning families arriving after August 2016 will be at risk of deportation to a war zone.

Rasha Ajalyaqeen, Syrian U.S. legal resident with family members impacted by decision, said:

My 92 year old mother currently has a temporary visa to the United States but was just now told she does not qualify for TPS protections. We don’t have any other family members there and, if she were to return to Syria, she would be returning to a healthcare system that has fallen apart in recent years, given how many doctors have fled the country. I am responsible for her care, but, now, under these circumstances, I don’t know where to turn.

What exactly is our situation? Are we treated as children of a lesser God? We are law-abiding people, and we deserve an explanation. We are in a very difficult situation, and I would hope that the Administration would think we deserved a bit more. It feels right now like we’ve been deserted by everyone. 

Royce Murray, Policy Director, American Immigration Council, said:

While we welcome an extension of TPS for Syrians, we are disappointed that DHS did not redesignate TPS for Syria to afford protection to those Syrians who more recently arrived in the United States to flee the civil war. The conditions in Syria are not in dispute; the State Department explicitly advises people that ‘[n]o part of Syria is safe from violence’ and that travelers to Syria should draft a will and discuss funeral wishes with loved ones. It’s clear that TPS remains a critical component of our country’s ability to provide protection to those fleeing dangerous situations. On the heels of DHS terminating TPS for four countries (El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan) in the last four months, we must be sure that Syria does not set the bar for how extreme conditions must be in order to get TPS.

Wendy Patten, Senior Policy Advisor, Open Society Policy Center, said:

The extension means that those Syrians who currently have TPS can extend their status, which is good news for those families, but those Syrians who fled the civil war and came to the United States after August 2016 will not receive humanitarian protection. The United States has extended and re-designated TPS for Syria three times since the original 2012 designation. The Administration’s reported decision breaks with those decisions and raises serious concerns about how conditions on the ground were assessed.

Robert Ford, Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria and Senior Fellow at Middle East Institute, said:

I am glad that the Administration renewed TPS for some Syrians, but I do not understand their decision not to redesignate Syria. There is no rule of law in the government-controlled areas or in the opposition-controlled areas of Syria. All people who return from the U.S., then, will be viewed with deep suspicion by the Syrian government and all will be liable for arrest.

As there is no rule of law, the detention of Syrians who return could be indefinite, as has happened to tens of thousands of people already. Thousands have been killed in detention. The government does not scruple from detaining women and children, often to pressure their male relatives who are wanted by the authorities to surrender themselves. In addition, men returning to government-controlled areas likely would be conscripted into the Syrian army and sent off to fight with little to no training. People returning to opposition-controlled areas will face government bombing due to nearby fighting as well as harassment and/or detention by militant organizations in those opposition-controlled areas. The Syrian conflict is simply not finished.