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Despite Extension from Trump Administration, Somali TPS Holders Continue to Live in Limbo

person holding a "Protect TPS" sign
Photo: / AFSC


Despite Extension from Trump Administration, Somali TPS Holders Continue to Live in Limbo

AFSC says Congress must act

WASHINGTON, DC (July 19, 2018) Today the Trump Administration announced it would extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Somalis living in the U.S. TPS is a provision under which the government grants protection from deportation to people from certain countries afflicted by natural disasters, war, or other dangerous conditions. The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) – a Quaker organization that has worked for immigrant and refugee rights for almost 100 years – commended the extension but spoke out against the decision to not admit new Somalis.  

“It’s critical that the Trump Administration not only extend but also redesignate TPS for Somalia, which continues to struggle with extreme violence and is perhaps the most conflict-affected country in Africa,” said Peniel Ibe, Policy Fellow for AFSC. “A redesignation of TPS would allow more recently arrived Somali nationals to apply for protection through TPS.”

There are only around 500 Somalis with TPS in the U.S. Somalia was originally granted TPS because of ongoing war and conflict and such dangerous conditions still exist. Data sets suggest that almost 2,000 people have been killed in armed conflict and targeted attacks on civilians since the beginning of 2018 alone.

In addition to AFSC’s work on immigrant rights in the U.S., AFSC has also been active in Somalia since 2008, working with young people to develop livelihoods, mitigate community conflict, and take on leadership and advocacy roles. “We have yet to meet a Somali national who doesn’t want to go back home, but home is not safe for return,” said Zaina Kisongoa, who serves as AFSC’s Somalia Country Representative. “It is all of our responsibilities to make Somalia a safe place to return to, and to make the world safe for refugees.”

The fact that Somalis were not offered redesignation despite these conditions is causing many to point to a bigger pattern of racial and religious discrimination. "Through the Muslim ban and the dramatic reduction in the total number of refugees the U.S. is admitting, Somalis have already been the target of discrimination by this Administration," said Mary Zerkel, Coordinator of AFSC’s Communities Against Islamophobia project. "And lawsuits have alleged that recent decisions to terminate TPS for other countries were based on racial discrimination. We fear that this decision not to redesignate is a continuation of the U.S.'s dark history of legalized oppression."

AFSC and others across the country have been working hard to try and save TPS for all countries – bringing TPS holders to Washington, DC to meet with elected officials, organizing call-in days, and holding local events. Multiple lawsuits – based on racial discrimination and infringing on the constitutional rights of TPS beneficiaries – are challenging the Administration’s termination of TPS for Sudan, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Haiti, and Honduras.

“TPS recipients are integral parts of our communities,” said Kristin Kumpf, who serves as Director of Human Migration and Mobility at AFSC. “We are calling on Congress to enact a permanent solution that offers Lawful Permanent Residency and a pathway to citizenship for all TPS recipients and the millions of other immigrants in the U.S.”

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The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action. Drawing on continuing spiritual insights and working with people of many backgrounds, we nurture the seeds of change and respect for human life that transform social systems.