The Department of Homeland Security is scheduled to rule on Thursday whether to further extend temporary protected status (TPS) to 250 Somalis who sought refuge in the United States. Some have enjoyed the benefits of the special immigration program for as many as three decades. A majority of the Somalis affected live in Minnesota, which remains the home of the largest Somali community in the country.

First approved by then-President George H.W. Bush in 1991 in response to the brutal civil war in Somalia, TPS has been extended at least 22 times since then under multiple presidents. Smalia remains a conflictive country, where Muslim terrorists, drug-trafficking and piracy hold sway. TPS has allowed Somalis living in the U.S. avoid deportation for years. By ending the program, those who have had protected status will face either leaving the United States or become subject to deportation as illegal aliens. 

Immigration advocates believe that many Somalis who are facing the loss of TPS will choose to remain in the United States as illegal aliens. At a Tuesday news conference in Minneapolis, Mustafa Jumale of the Black Immigrant Collective said that terminating TPS would be a “death sentence” for his compatriots. “Given the option of going back to face certain violence, many would choose to become undocumented.” Under the auspices of the United Nations, U.S. forces tried to ensure the fair distribution of food and medicine during the fratricidal fighting in Somalia in the early 1990s. The U.S. pulled its troops out of Somalia after experiencing losses.

The Trump administration is expected to terminate TPS for Somalis. In 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump told listeners in Minnesota that large numbers of Somali refugees were arriving in the state and spreading extreme Islamist views. 

The Department of Homeland Security has already rescinded TPS for hundreds of thousands of immigrants from seven countries, including El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Liberia, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan. All of these immigrants have more than a year to depart. 

Last week, Democrats Rep. Yvette D. Clarke of New York, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, and Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington State joined 83 other members of Congress in signing a letter to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging them to redesignate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Somalis and extend it for another 18 months.  Secretary Nielsen has until July 19 to decide whether to extend or terminate TPS for Somalia, with the program currently set to expire on September 17, 2018. 

TPS is intended to provide temporary lawful status to foreign nationals in the United States from countries experiencing armed conflict, natural disaster, or other extraordinary circumstances that prevent their safe return. Armed conflict and targeted attacks on civilians still cause massive loss of life in Somalia, while famine and flood have caused widespread hunger, displacement, and contagious disease. 
 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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