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US to expand temporary protection to Afghan refugees

Temporary Protected Status will be extended for Afghans who were in US after the country fully withdrew its forces from Afghanistan
US President Joe Biden walks to board Marine One as he departs the White House in Washington, DC, on 17 September 2023 (AFP)

The Biden administration is expanding and extending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Afghans in the United States

The resolution announced by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Thursday extends TPS for an additional 18 months for nearly 3,100 Afghans who were in the US after the country fully withdrew its forces from Afghanistan in August 2021. TPS protects from deportations.

The temporary status is also being expanded to the 14,600 Afghans who arrived in the US after the initial TPS approval for Afghanistan last March.

During the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021, tens of thousands of Afghans rushed to the airport in the hopes of leaving the country for the US, and also out of fear of the Taliban-run government.

Since then, the US has resettled roughly 86,000 Afghans, according to data from the Department of Homeland Security. Most of them were admitted with special immigrant visas or through the parole process.

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"Today's announcement to extend and redesignate TPS for Afghanistan allows us to continue to offer safety and protection to Afghan nationals who are unable to return to their country," Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said.

"DHS will continue to support Afghan nationals through this temporary form of humanitarian relief."

But many Afghans remain in limbo, as legislation that could provide them a pathway to permanent residency has hit hurdle after hurdle this year.

'Our treatment is shocking': Red tape in US leaves Afghans in legal limbo
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In 2022, a bipartisan group of US senators presented the Afghan Adjustment Act (AAA). This proposed legislation, if ratified, would broaden visa provisions for Afghan evacuees. 

While it has garnered increased backing from Congressional representatives, each voting session has seen it fall short.

In December 2022, the bill was omitted from a significant US budgetary proposal. Although it has been proposed again since then, a vote on it is still pending.

“While TPS offers a vital safety net, Afghan nationals need and deserve lasting protection. Congress must provide a long-term solution by passing the Afghan Adjustment Act, which would provide a direct path to lawful permanent residency for Afghan evacuees left in legal limbo,” Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said in a press release.

The news follows closely on the heels of the Biden administration's decision, just two days prior, to grant TPS to almost 500,000 Venezuelans, citing persistent humanitarian, security, political, and environmental challenges in their homeland.

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