- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced Wednesday he will grant Temporary Protected Status to many Afghans already in the U.S., giving them a new level of status.

TPS confers key benefits like work permits to migrants, allowing them a chance to put down roots in society. As a tentative legal status, it also blocks deportations, though the Biden administration had already halted removals to Afghanistan after the country’s takeover by the Taliban last year.

Homeland Security said “ongoing armed conflict” involving the Taliban and attacks by Islamic State-Khorasan have left the country too unstable for people to be forced to return.

“This TPS designation will help to protect Afghan nationals who have already been living in the United States from returning to unsafe conditions,” Mr. Mayorkas said.

He said the status will help “trusted partners” who helped support the U.S. war effort over the last two decades.

But critics said the designation is proof that many of those the U.S. brought out of Afghanistan in last year’s chaotic airlift were not actually the translators and support staff who assisted the military.

Those folks are eligible for a special visa providing a full pathway to citizenship, and there would be no need for them to obtain TPS, said R.J. Hauman, head of government relations at the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

Mr. Hauman also questioned the timing of the designation, nearly seven months after the botched evacuation, and as new arrivals have dried up.

“Secretary Mayorkas didn’t do it right after our botched withdrawal to protect Afghans already here, but instead because he wanted to increase the amount of Afghans in the country to benefit,” Mr. Hauman said. “Now he has a sufficient Afghan population on U.S. soil, and suddenly a TPS designation is warranted.”

TPS is designed to protect foreign nationals whose home countries are disrupted by natural disasters, disease, political unrest or war.

It’s rare, however, that the U.S. itself was the cause of the instability.

In the case of Afghanistan, it was the American pullout last summer that precipitated a collapse of Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban takeover.

The TPS designation will apply to Afghans who made it to the U.S. as of Tuesday.

Those who enter now will not be eligible, Homeland Security said.

TPS requires a background check.

Mr. Mayorkas didn’t give an estimate for how many people would be covered, though the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. put the number at 77,000.

That’s the number of people the administration reported airlifting out of Afghanistan.

Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, cheered the TPS decision as an “affirmation” of Afghans already here and an acknowledgment of the rough conditions in their home country.

She said there are plenty of other countries that also face deteriorating situations and whose citizens deserve the same designation. She listed Cameroon, Ethiopia and Mauritania, saying the U.S. needs to focus on “Black-majority nations.”

The Biden administration has already been very active with its TPS designations, with declarations this month alone for Ukraine, Sudan and South Sudan.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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