The Biden administration announced on Friday that Ethiopian nationals in the United States would become eligible to apply for work permits and a deferral of deportation in light of the ongoing civil war in the East African country.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has nominated Ethiopia for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a program that allows nationals of a country experiencing man-made or natural disasters to stay and work in United States.
Ethiopia’s civil war is the largest ongoing conflict in the world, with over a million Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
“The United States recognizes the ongoing armed conflict and the extraordinary and temporary conditions that overwhelm Ethiopia, and DHS [the Department of Homeland Security] is committed to providing temporary protection to those in need,” Mayorkas said in a statement.
Although Ethiopia has been the scene of ethnic conflicts, famines and other humanitarian disasters, this is the first time the country has been designated for TPS.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menéndez (DN.J.) celebrated the designation by saying, “The spiraling armed conflict in Ethiopia is the exact reason we created the TPS program.
“President Biden is absolutely right to grant Ethiopian nationals long-overdue temporary deportation protections as their country faces wave after wave of unprecedented violence and upheaval that could amount to war crimes. and crimes against humanity,” Menéndez said.
With this designation, Ethiopian nationals in the United States from Thursday will be allowed to apply for TPS protections. Ethiopian nationals who have traveled to the United States since Friday are still subject to deportation.
With this designation, Ethiopia joins 15 other countries with TPS, including Afghanistan, Ukraine, Syria, Nepal and Yemen.
The Ethiopian immigrant population in the United States has grown from around 10,000 in 1980 to around 180,000 in 2014, according to the Migration Policy Institute (MPI).
According to the MPI, immigration from Ethiopia accelerated particularly after the year 2000, mainly through the channel of refugees and family reunification.
Ethiopians will be allowed to apply for protections under the 18-month TPS designation, regardless of their current immigration status.
“Ethiopian nationals currently residing in the United States who cannot return safely due to conflict-related violence and a humanitarian crisis involving severe food shortages, flooding, drought, and displacement, will be able to stay and work in the United States until conditions in their home country improve,” Mayorkas said.
While some TPS designations are almost automatically renewed by DHS, 12 countries, or parts of those countries, have already been designated for TPS and then removed from the program.
TPS recipients are mostly barred from applying for any other immigration status, so long-time TPS holders depend on continued redesignation to continue working and avoid deportation, no matter how long. of their stay in the United States.
“Beyond this critical designation, we also encourage members of Congress to use the many bills before them to provide lasting stability to other TPS holders who do not have a clear path to lawful permanent residence. and remain in a revolving legal limbo,” Krish O’Mara Vignarajah said. , President and CEO of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.
The current Ethiopian civil war is an extension of a long-running ethnic conflict in Ethiopia and Eritrea, which has left more than 10 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.
“Ethiopia is embroiled in a devastating civil war, making the return of Ethiopian nationals a life-threatening prospect, especially for those from the Tigrayan minority. The armed conflict has triggered brutal attacks, killings, rapes, other forms of gender-based violence, as well as gross human rights violations,” Vignarajah said.
“The Biden Administration’s designation is an important recognition that no Ethiopian who finds himself safe on American soil should be removed in such dire circumstances. This decision is a potentially life-saving reprieve for tens of thousands of Ethiopians who have already contributed so much to American communities,” she added.