SILVER SPRING, Maryland – Days before Syrian immigrants with Temporary Protected Status could be placed at risk of being deported back to an active war zone, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. released a report detailing why TPS should be extended and redesignated for Syria.
The U.S. government designated Syria for TPS in March 2012 because of the dangerous conditions resulting from civil war. Since its original designation, as the war continued and incursions by the local iteration of the Islamic State grew, the status has been extended and redesignated each time it was up for renewal. The ghastly conditions qualify Syria for TPS under two categories under the Immigration and Nationality Act - “extraordinary and temporary conditions” and “ongoing armed conflict within the country.”
The Department of Homeland Security is due to decide whether to renew or cancel TPS for Syria by Jan. 30.
CLINIC Executive Director Jeanne Atkinson said the report, No Safety in a Warzone: Why TPS is needed for Syria, vividly illustrates why TPS exists and why people from countries such as Syria should continue to have the designation.
“As Catholics and as Americans, our responsibility to the Syrian people is clear—we must stand with them and do everything in our power to assist them as they seek safety and protection for their families,” she said.
Earlier this month the State Department issued a travel advisory, warning U.S. citizens “not to travel to Syria due to terrorism, civil unrest and armed conflict.” It is classified among the most dangerous places in the world.
“Within the past few weeks, the State Department has said that no part of Syria is safe from violence,” said Lisa Parisio, CLINIC Advocacy Attorney and principal author ofthe report. “If we are warning Americans not to go to Syria then why would we send men, women and children back into danger? Civilians in Syria have suffered catastrophic losses.”
In addition to an overview of current conditions in Syria, the report includes recommendations for the administration and for Congress.
Key recommendations include:
- Continue extending TPS for Syria in 18-month increments and redesignate TPS until the country recovers from the war, as well as the other conditions that prevent Syrian TPS holders from safely returning to their homeland.
- Adhere to U.S. law by making and executing TPS extension decisions in a timely manner, based on current country conditions and advice from appropriate government agencies, including the State Department.
- Do not terminate TPS or let protections lapse without there being a permanent solution in place to protect Syrian and other TPS holders
TPS is a humanitarian program that allows people to stay in the United States if their home countries were affected by a devastating situation that prevents their safe return, such war, famine, natural disaster or epidemic. TPS allows people to temporarily live and work in U.S., shielding them from deportation. TPS does not provide a direct pathway to permanent residency or citizenship.
TPS designations for El Salvador (200,000 people), Haiti (50,000 people), Nicaragua (2,550 people) and Sudan (1,000+ people) have been terminated over the last year, with end dates ranging from Nov. 2, 2018 (Sudan) through Sept. 9, 2019 (El Salvador). Homeland Security is due to decide by May 4 whether to extend TPS for Honduras.
On Jan. 23, 2018, Church World Service and CLINIC delivered a letter to the administration signed by nearly 300 faith leaders and organizations from across traditions in support of Syrian TPS holders. The letter calls on Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to extend TPS for Syria for 18 months and to redesignate in order to protect more Syrians in need.
Reporters who wish to speak with the report’s author or another CLINIC expert should contact Communications Director Patricia Zapor, firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-565-4830.