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The Biden administration has extended US immigration relief to Afghans in America. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that Afghans currently living in America will be protected from deportation under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) scheme.
Last year, the US resettled more than 76,000 Afghan refugees following the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban to power. Most of the evacuees resettled in America were granted permission to stay for two years and issued with US work permits.
Afghan refugees may become eligible for the TPS scheme, which applies to people who would face hardship if forced to return to homelands devastated by armed conflict or natural disasters if they don’t secure legal status in the US within a two-year period. However, TPS is only available to people already living in the US.
Protect Afghan nationals
An official statement issued by DHS Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, said: “This TPS designation will help to protect Afghan nationals who have already been living in the United States from returning to unsafe conditions.”
“Under this designation, TPS will also provide additional protections and assurances to trusted partners and vulnerable Afghans who supported the US military, diplomatic, and humanitarian missions in Afghanistan over the last 20 years,” Mayorkas added.
According to the DHS, Mr Mayorkas took into consideration the ongoing armed conflict, economic crisis, food and water insecurity, and collapsing public sector in Afghanistan when making his decision to extend US immigration relief to Afghan nationals.
It’s understood that approximately 74,500 Afghan people currently living in the US would become eligible for TPS through the designation of Afghanistan. This figure includes 72,500 Afghan evacuees who had been paroled into the US, and approximately 2,000 Afghan nationals already in the US, such as students.
Afghanistan joins growing list
Afghanistan joins a growing list of countries that have been designated for TPS by the US, which currently includes Burma (Myanmar), El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela and Yemen.
Some lawmakers and US immigration advocates have been urging the Biden administration to grant Afghans TPS for months. However, it’s been argued that TPS is not enough. While TPS offers protection against deportation, it does not offer a pathway to US citizenship.
Lawmakers and advocates have been pushing for passage of the Afghan Adjustment Act, which would create a US citizenship pathway for Afghans.
President and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, said: “We welcome the Biden administration’s decision to grant TPS to Afghans, but more needs to be done to provide a permanent pathway to citizenship.”
“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 US 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,” she added.
The DHS has said that TPS will be granted to certain Afghan nationals for 18 months. To be eligible to apply, individuals must have lived in the US since March 15.
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