The US Department of Homeland Security announced Thursday it would allow approximately 500 Somali refugees to remain in the US for another 18 months under a protected status.
Somalis in the US with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) will be eligible to re-register for an extension of their status, which lasts through March 17, 2020. The status grants refugees the ability to live and legally work while in the US.
Somalis now join the list of refugees President Trump’s DHS has given TPS extensions to, which includes Syrian, South Sudanese and Yemeni migrants.
Kirstjen Nielsen, DHS’s secretary, cited “ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary conditions” in Somalia as the reason behind the extension.
Somali refugees in the US were first deemed eligible for the special status in 1991 when the East African country broke out into a civil war.
Temporary permission to remain in the US has been extended 22 times because of the conflict in Somalia.
Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the state with the largest Somali community in the country, expressed her approval of the decision.
“The Somali community in Minnesota—the largest in the country— has contributed so much to the cultural and economic vitality of our state,” Klobuchar said in a statement.
“I’ve always believed that our country’s strength comes from the diversity of our people,” she continued. “Somali people in Minnesota and across the U.S. deserve to continue living, working, and succeeding here, as they have for decades.”
However, some advocacy groups, such as the UndocuBlack Network, believes the extension is not enough and the administration should make a more impactful move.
The organization asked not just for an extension, but a re-designation of Somalia’s TPS status, which would allow more Somalis to apply for protection.
“We needed a re-designation, the conditions in Somalia have worsened since this year and definitely since the last re-designation in 2012,” the group said in a released statement. “We know that this will cause added instability for several mixed status Somali families who are simultaneously being denied asylum. This is not enough.”
The Black Alliance for Just Immigration, an organization that engages in education and advocacy, claims that along with the 500 Somalis already eligible for protected status, another 1,078 Somalis would be eligible if DHS chose to re-designate the program, rather than just extend it.
Nevertheless, the 18-month extension is still a victory, albeit a momentary one, for those who stand with refugees.