US immigration authorities have announced that they will publish details of an 18-month work permit scheme, which will be offered to ‘eligible’ citizens of Hong Kong, by the end of September. On August 5, President Joe Biden issued a memo allowing for Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for certain Hong Kong residents, plus the right to work for 18 months.
In an official statement, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said: “Although DED is not a specific US immigration status, individuals covered by DED are not subject to removal from the United States, usually for a designated period of time.”
“There is no application for DED; however, to obtain employment authorization applicants will need to submit proof of identity and eligibility for DED,” USCIS added.
Extend the lifeline
However, while 18-month work permits for Hong Kongers have largely been welcomed, professor of immigration law at Cornell Law School, Stephen Yale-Loehr, said that ‘more could be done to extend the lifeline.’
He said: “There are many things that could be done to help Hongkongers in the US. First, the President can extend the initial 18-month period. Second, Congress can pass a law giving them the avenue to obtain green cards in the United States.”
Yale-Loehr cited that a similar law was passed to aid Chinese students and former members of the 1989 pro-democracy movement on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and elsewhere in China.
President Biden’s memo on August 5 stated that DED was being offered to Hong Kong citizens as a result of what he described as the ‘significant erosion of the rights and freedoms of people in Hong Kong by the People’s Republic of China.’
The memo said: “The imposition of a draconian national security law on Hong Kong by the ruling Chinese Communist Party has undermined the enjoyment of rights and freedoms in Hong Kong.”
A series of politically motivated arrests have been made by Hong Kong police, with more than 100 opposition politicians, activists and protestors detained under China’s national security laws for ‘offences’ such as secession, subversion, terrorist activities, and collusion with a foreign country or external elements, according to the memo.
Meanwhile, more than 10,000 people have been arrested in connection with a 2019 protest movement, which Beijing has claimed was ‘an attempt by hostile foreign powers’ to spark a revolution across China’s capital city.
Biden’s memo said: “China has continued its assault on Hong Kong’s autonomy, undermining its remaining democratic processes and institutions, imposing limits on academic freedom, and cracking down on freedom of the press.”
Under China’s restrictive national security law, Hong Kong was forced to close pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily, on June 17. Several senior journalists at the newspaper were arrested, including founder Jimmy Lai, on charges of ‘colluding with foreign powers.’
Another journalist was detained for searching a public database for car license plates for a documentary.
The Chinese government has also unveiled plans for a law that ‘bans fake news’ while giving the government greater control over public broadcast content.
Hong Kongers hope
One Hong Kong national currently in the US on a tourist visa said that he was hoping to apply for a US green card, which would give him the right to remain in the US permanently. He said: “The DED has been a huge help toward achieving my goal.”
“My tourist visa expires at the end of October, so the DED scheme is going to be very helpful to me. I will be able to stay on here, even if I haven’t managed to switch to a different visa. It makes a huge difference. Not only can I stay here; I'll be allowed to work, too,” he added.
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