The Trump administration made the correct and compassionate call on Thursday and extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to about 500 Somalis who would have faced a dangerous, even deadly future if they had been forced to return to their war-torn homeland.
“Temporary Protected Status is a humanitarian, legal and lifesaving mechanism that the U.S. has used for decades when countries are too dangerous for their citizens to be returned, and Somalia is a classic example of a country that has experienced endemic and wave after wave of violence the government cannot control,” John Keller, executive director of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, told an editorial writer. “There’s been no significant change in the risk to the people who are returning. In fact, some people would argue that it’s only gotten worse.”
That’s why Minnesota Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Ohio Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, who both represent states with sizable Somali populations, wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen to urge a TPS extension. (Several other lawmakers from Minnesota and other states also advocated for an extension.)
Klobuchar and Portman wrote: “Conditions in Somalia remain dire, and armed conflict continues to be a threat to Somali people. Somalia experienced its worst terrorist attack in history last year, with a truck bomb in the capital of Mogadishu killing over 500 people. Between January 2016 and October 2017, the United Nations reported 4,585 civilian casualties resulting from armed conflict in Somalia. In addition to security risks, droughts have compromised millions of Somalis’ access to food, and poverty and famine remain widespread.”
Klobuchar told an editorial writer, “Things are still very difficult in their country, so there is no argument, no facts, to send them back if you took them in the first place.”
To the relief of many, the Department of Homeland Security agreed. The agency extended TPS until March 17, 2020. It’s the 22nd time such an extension has been granted.
The welcome extension was also somewhat surprising, especially after the relatively recent revocations of TPS for some citizens of El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, Nepal, Nicaragua and Sudan. Each of these countries is either undergoing chronic conflict or still reeling from natural disasters (or a combination of both), so the extension for Somalis was far from a sure thing.
And it’s no sure thing that another extension will be granted, even if conditions in Somalia don’t improve.
What’s more, Somalis who arrived in the U.S. after May 1, 2012, are not TPS eligible, which the Minnesota Council on American-Islamic Relations said eventually could make more than 1,000 Somalis vulnerable. Protecting them is warranted, too, and members of Congress should continue to press the administration for a more comprehensive fix.