The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) extended Afghans’ temporary immigration protected status on Wednesday, bringing praise from immigration advocates and calling for a permanent solution for those who have fled the crisis-racked country.
The temporary immigration protections, which will last for 18 months, will only apply to Afghans who were residing in the United States as of Tuesday, March 15, 2022. Tens of thousands of Afghans have come to the U.S. since Taliban militants took over the country last summer after the withdrawal of U.S. military forces.
“This TPS designation will help to protect Afghan nationals who have already been living in the United States from returning to unsafe conditions,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas said.
A Department of Homeland Security news release said the designation was based on Afghanistan’s “collapsing public sector, a worsening economic crisis, drought, food and water insecurity, lack of access to health care, internal displacement, human rights abuses, and repression by the Taliban, destruction of infrastructure, and increasing criminality.”
Further details about the application process and other aspects of the program will be published in a forthcoming Federal Register notice.
The move to grant TPS to Afghans follows similar decisions in recent weeks to give temporary immigration protections to Ukrainians, Sudanese, and South Sudanese nationals.
Although many immigration advocacy groups celebrated Wednesday’s announcement, the move also brought calls for President Joe Biden and federal lawmakers to create a statutory path to citizenship for Afghans, a process Congress has used in the past to receive Cuban nationals, Hungarians escaping Soviet rule and Liberians fleeing civil war, political instability and, more recently, an Ebola outbreak.
A legislative proposal to accomplish this, which many refer to as the Afghan Adjustment Act, has failed to make headway in the current Congress.
Joseph Azam, a board member of the Afghan American Foundation, commended the TPS designation for Afghans on Wednesday but said the move was “only the first step.”
“President Biden must now use his bully pulpit to highlight the urgent need for Congress to act on permanent and comprehensive protection for America’s Afghan allies and friends through the passage of the Afghan Adjustment Act,” Azam said. “The administration must also continue to focus on the evacuation and resettlement of at-risk Afghans.”
The call for passage of the Afghan Adjustment Act was joined by other advocacy groups, including the National Immigration Forum, Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., and Human Rights First, among others.
Other groups called on the Biden administration to extend TPS to additional nationalities, including people from Cameroon, Ethiopia, and countries in Central America.
Recent TPS designations or redesignations for Ukraine, Sudan, and South Sudan underscore that TPS and other executive actions are important ways President Biden can deliver on his promises, grant meaningful protections, and advance both America’s interests and values.
A DHS spokesperson said Wednesday that the agency supports the Afghan Adjustment Act and that it carefully considers whether to grant TPS to additional nationalities.