US grants 18-month TPS extension for Somali citizens
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will publish a notice on Tuesday announcing the extension of a special status for certain Somali nationals living in the US until March 17, 2011.
- US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano (AFP)
The Temporary Protected Status (TPS) granted to some Somali nationals living in the US was due to expire in March 17, 2011.
TPS is a temporary immigration status granted to eligible nationals of a certain country because of “temporary negative conditions” including armed conflict or an environmental disaster, that prevent nationals from returning home safely.
The notice signed by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Janet Napolitano justified the extension by saying that “Armed conflict in Somalia is ongoing and, due to such conflict and other extraordinary and temporary conditions requiring the return of eligible individuals with TPS to Somalia would pose a serious threat to their personal safety”.
“Somalia remains in a state of chaos characterized by the lack of a central government, a crippled economy, the absence of civil structures, destruction of infrastructure, and generalized insecurity in the form of banditry, kidnapping, looting, revenge killings, targeted assassinations, suicide car-bombings, and inter-clan fighting,” Napolitano stated in an advance copy of the notice obtained by Sudan Tribune.
Following the publication of the notice in the Federal register on Tuesday, qualified Somalis may file registration applications for TPS with USCIS during the 60 days registration period.
During the period for which a country has been designated under the TPS program, the registrants are allowed to remain in the United States and obtain work authorization and may not be deported unless they commit certain crimes.
However, TPS does not lead to permanent residence in the US, which is better known as the ‘green card’. Several bills in the US Congress to grant permanent residence to some TPS beneficiaries have stalled amidst growing anti-immigrant sentiment in the country.
Currently nationals of Burundi, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua Haiti and Sudan are also covered by the program.
Eligibility for TPS is limited to Somali nationals who entered the country on or before September 4, 2001. The immigration body states that an individual who has been convicted in the United States of either a felony or two or more misdemeanors is not eligible for TPS.
Somalia was initially designated for TPS in 1991 and was subsequently extended throughout the years. There are approximately 300 nationals of Somalia covered by the program currently.