The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on May 1, 2012 that it is re-designating Somalia for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for another eighteen months. This allows people who are present in the United States from the war- and drought-ravaged east African nation to remain in the country. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano based this decision on continuing instability in Somalia, resulting both from civil war and drought, which prevents Somali nationals from returning safely. TPS allows people to remain in the United States and obtain work authorization, provided they are not otherwise removable at the time the status is granted.
Somalia’s current problems began more than twenty years ago. The country’s last stable national government collapsed in 1991, and multiple armed factions began vying for control of all or parts of the country. Foreign powers, including Somalia’s neighbors like Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Yemen, have supported various factions in an ongoing civil war. The United States has intervened militarily in the past and offered humanitarian aid, and other countries operating under the auspices of the United Nations have maintained peacekeeping forces in Somalia.
Since 2006, Ethiopia has invaded Somalia twice, and Kenya has invaded once. The country remains divided and lacks a functioning central government. The northern part of the country has declared itself to be the independent nation of Somaliland, although no other country has recognized its independence. In 2011, Somalia began experiencing a severe drought that continued for a year, with millions of people still in crisis.
The DHS Secretary may designate a country for TPS based on temporary conditions that prevent nationals of that country from safely returning. Civil war or other armed conflict, environmental disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes, and other “extraordinary and temporary conditions” may merit a TPS designation.
People who obtain TPS may not be removed from the U.S. or detained by DHS based solely on their immigration status. TPS beneficiaries may obtain work authorization during the status period, and they may obtain travel authorization to leave the country. TPS does not give an individual any advantage in obtaining other immigration benefits, such as a visa or permanent residence. A person present in the U.S. with TPS may still apply for a visa or other benefits, provided they qualify independent of TPS.
The United States first designated Somalia as TPS on September 16, 1991, re-designating it on September 4, 2001. This month’s announcement is Somalia’s second re-designation. TPS was set to expire on September 18, 2012. The eighteen-month extension means TPS is now valid until March 17, 2014. Somali nationals who currently have TPS must re-register between May 1 and July 2, 2012. Somali nationals applying for the first time must do so between May 1 and October 29, 2012. To be eligible, they must have been physically present in the U.S. on May 1 and must have continuously resided in the U.S. since that date.
The New York and New Jersey immigration lawyers at Samuel C. Berger, P.C. help immigrants seeking visas to come to, or remain in, the United States. To schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys today, contact us online or call our law office at (212) 380-8117.
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Photo credit: ‘Somalia in its region (claimed)’ by TUBS [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.