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Homeland Security gives Afghans in U.S temporary protected status

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The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday announced that it would designate Afghanistan for temporary protected status.

It also said it would provide 18 months of deportation relief to Afghans who fled the country following its fall to the Taliban last year.

The designation would provide immigration protections to tens of thousands of Afghans who were permitted to enter the U.S. without visas under humanitarian parole after the evacuation.

It would also allow them to work legally, though many already sought work permits under the terms of humanitarian parole.

“This TPS designation will help to protect Afghan nationals who have already been living in the United States from returning to unsafe conditions.”

Homeland Security Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, citing oppressive actions by the Taliban regime and a worsening humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. said the designation would also provide additional protections and assurances to trusted partners and vulnerable Afghans who supported the U.S. military, diplomatic, and humanitarian missions in Afghanistan over the last 20 years.

Following the Afghanistan government’s collapse, the U.S. evacuated tens of thousands of vulnerable Afghans, including individuals in line for special immigrant visas and their families as well as people not eligible for special immigrant visas but otherwise deemed vulnerable.

After undergoing overseas security vetting, evacuees were processed on domestic military bases before being resettled across the U.S.

More than 75,000 in total, Afghans had been resettled in the U.S. under the sweeping effort known as Operation Allies Welcome.

But roughly, 36,000 lacked a direct pathway to permanent residency in the U.S., according to a report released by DHS last month.

Only Afghans who were in the U.S. as of March 15 would be eligible for TPS under Wednesday’s announcement.

TPS granted individuals from countries struck by a natural disaster, armed conflict or other “extraordinary and temporary conditions” the ability to stay in the U.S. without fearing deportation.

But the designation does not provide a guaranteed path to permanent residency or citizenship.

Earlier this month, the Biden administration also designated TPS for Ukraine as that nation continued to fight back Russia’s invasion.

Immigrant and refugee advocates had raised concerns about Afghans who lacked a pathway to permanent protection, calling for legislation that would allow them to adjust their status to lawful permanent residency.

“Our nation’s moral obligation to our Afghan allies and friends demands the stability that only a pathway to the permanent residence can provide,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of the resettlement group Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

That legislation had yet to be introduced in Congress, but lawmakers hinted Tuesday that it could be unveiled in the coming weeks.

“I have a number of Republicans strongly interested in co-sponsoring,” said Senator Chris Coons, D-Del.

“We are negotiating the final text. As of last week, I believe it was ready for introduction.”

Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., also said she was working on the legislation.

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