A group of 50 House Democrats led by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN-05) sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week asking for an extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Somalis.
Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA-07), Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY-09), and Adam Smith (D-WA-09) joined Omar in drafting the letter, which notes that TPS for an estimated 500 Somalis is due to expire on March 17.
“We write to urge you to re-designate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Somalia. While Somalia has seen tremendous progress in the last decade, it is still recovering from almost 30 years of civil conflict. Returning Somali TPS holders to Somalia would put their lives at risk,” states the letter.
It goes on to argue that the security situation in Somalia “remains extremely fraught,” since Al-Shabaab continues to hold “large swaths of territory” and carry out attacks “against civilians in Mogadishu and other population centers.”
The letter acknowledges that Somalis “belonging to marginalized communities, such as ethnic minorities, women, and girls are at even more risk.”
“Many TPS holders have escaped Al-Shabaab and would return to Somalia with targets on their backs. Forcibly returning them is tantamount to a death sentence,” the letter continues. “Many TPS holders are not only supporting their American-born families but also their families in Somalia. Somalis in the United States send $215 million in remittances each year to Somalia to support their families’ basic needs. Somali TPS holders are often their families’ only lifeline. If they were to be deported, the effects would be devastating not only on their own communities here in the United States, but on Somalia as well.”
Omar said in a statement that holding Somalis “in suspense about what could be a matter of life and death is unconscionably cruel.”
“Somali TPS holders – some of whom have lived in the United States for almost three decades – face the agonizing uncertainty of their futures, and the futures of their U.S. citizen children,” she said. “Their extension should be completed as soon as possible.”
Jayapal said that any departure from the status quo “would be cruel, inhumane and unjustified.”
“Republican and Democratic administrations have repeatedly granted Temporary Protected Status to Somalia, and the country is still suffering from terrorism, poverty and environmental disaster,” she added. “In my own district and throughout America, Somali families are treasured members of our communities, and we should not be tearing them apart and sending them into unsafe conditions. The Trump administration must extend Temporary Protected Status for Somalia without delay.”
The letter was signed by several prominent House Democrats, including Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-NY-10), Betty McCollum (D-MN-04), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-07), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14), Debbie Dingell (D-MI-12), and Steve Cohen (D-TN-09).
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].