Temporary Protected Status For Somalia is our country’s oldest TPS program. Yet, conditions have not improved enough for Somalis to return safely to their homeland.
According to Alejandro Mayorkas, director of the U.S Department of Homeland Security, the extension of TPS is warranted because the conditions in Somalia that prompted the TPS designation remain ongoing and have been exacerbated in recent years.
“Three decades of conflict in Somalia, along with natural disasters and disease outbreaks, have worsened an already severe humanitarian crisis. Somalia has recently experienced a dramatic upsurge in violence, severe drought, and flooding, which have contributed to worsening food insecurity and internal displacement.
The COVID-19 pandemic, in conjunction with an outbreak of cholera, also presents major challenges for a health care system that has already been severely weakened by the ongoing conflict. These conditions prevent Somali nationals and habitual residents from returning to Somalia safely.”
Based on this review, the Department of Homeland Security determined the 18-month extension was appropriate.
Somalia Temporary Protected Status Update
Most Recent Registration Period: July 22, 2021 – September 20, 2021
Current Expiration Date: March 17, 2023
A special humanitarian program, Temporary Protected Status, was created in 1990.
The policy behind TPS is to provide immigrants with a temporary safe harbor while they are not capable of returning safely to their home country due to armed conflict, environmental disaster, war, and other extraordinary severe conditions.
The situation facing Somalians fits squarely within this policy goal.
A recent article entitled When Is A Nation Not A Nation? describes Somalia’s ongoing crisis in depth.
Somalia Temporary Protected Status History
On September 16, 1991, Somalia was designated for TPS status for the first time. This initial TPS designation was extended nine times.
First Redesignation Period
In September 2001, Somalian TPS was extended for a tenth time. In addition, immigration authorities redesignated Somalia for TPS.
Under the 2001 redesignation, the dates for Somalis to show they had been “continuously residing” in and “continuously physically present” in the United States were modified to September 4, 2001.
Following the redesignation, TPS was extended nine times, the last being on May 1, 2012.
Second Redesignation Period
At that time, DHS not only extended TPS for Somalia. The Department again redesignated Somalia for TPS. Under this new redesignation, both the continuous residence and continuous physical presence dates were adjusted again.
The continuous residence date was changed to May 1, 2012 and the continuous physical presence date was changed to September 18, 2012.
As before, under TPS, each new period of authorization is limited to 18 months.
Conflict in Somalia: A Temporary Conflict?
The long-term “temporary” status raises questions whether the TPS designation remains valid for Somalia.
During an earlier re-designation period, former DHS secretary Janet Napolitano had noted, “Somalia remains in a state of chaos characterized by the lack of a central government, a crippled economy, the absence of social structures, destruction of infrastructure, and generalized insecurity in the form of banditry, kidnapping, looting, revenge killings, targeted assassinations, suicide car-bombings, and inter-clan fighting.”
Due to such ongoing problems after two decades, the conflict in Somalia should no longer be viewed as a temporary condition.
It is time for the U.S. government to create a path for citizenship for TPS holders from Somalia.
According to the July 19, 2021 announcement, the recent extension of TPS for Somalia allows approximately 447 current beneficiaries to retain their status, as long as they continue to meet eligibility requirements. The re-designation will also enable about 100 additional Somalis who have continuously lived in the U.S. since July 19, 2021 to file first-time TPS applications.
A citizenship path for such a small number would not place an undue burden on U.S. resources.
Temporary Protected Status Benefits
The following benefits are granted as part of winning TPS status:
- You are allowed to have valid immigration status for the 18 month period
- You are eligible for a work permit, which allows you to work legally in the United States
- You may be able to halt deportation and removal proceedings against you
- You are eligible to later adjust your immigration status, if you meet certain requirements, and become a lawful permanent resident
- You are eligible to apply for permission to travel abroad
Somalia TPS Requirements
To qualify for TPS status, you must prove:
- You must be a Somalia national (or a person without nationality who last resided in Somalia)
- You must have been physically present in the U.S. since September 18, 2012
- You must have continuously resided in the U.S. since May 1, 2012
- You must meet all applicable immigration and TPS requirements, and successfully pass a background inspection
If you’re a Somali TPS beneficiary, keep a close eye on the expiration date and re-registration filing period. When new deadlines are set, you should not delay and take unnecessary risks.
As a San Diego immigration lawyer, I encourage clients to file as early as possible.
In an unfortunate twist, every time TPS is extended, there are some immigrants who do not file their papers on time. Do not be one of them. Do not until the last moment to file your application.
If you would like to know more about Somalia TPS, here is the USCIS link: USCIS Fact Sheet on Somalia.