The Biden administration will allow more than 70,000 Afghans in the US to apply for temporary protected status, shielding them from deportation and allowing them to obtain work permits months after the Taliban took over their home country, officials said Wednesday.
Immigrant advocates and some politicians pushed the Biden administration to extend the protection effort to Afghans in the US as a way to guarantee many would not be removed and sent back to their unstable homeland. Last week, a United Nations official said that more than 3 million children were in need of “nutrition support” and that the fate of an “entire generation” of Afghans was at stake.
The designation of temporary protected status will apply to Afghans who were in the US as of March 15. The protections will last for 18 months. More than 74,000 Afghans in the US are expected to be eligible for the protections.
“This TPS designation will help to protect Afghan nationals who have already been living in the United States from returning to unsafe conditions,” said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “Under this designation, TPS will also provide additional protections and assurances to trusted partners and vulnerable Afghans who supported the U.S. military, diplomatic, and humanitarian missions in Afghanistan over the last 20 years.”
An agency statement explained that Mayorkas had extended the protections to Afghans based on the ongoing armed conflict in Afghanistan. Elsewhere, the agency cited Afghanistan’s worsening food and economic crisis and human rights abuses by the Taliban.
After the Taliban takeover, more than 70,000 Afghans came to the US as part of the government’s Operation Allies Welcome. Most in the group had been paroled into the US for a period of two years, which allows them to remain in the country without a visa. Administrative parole carries no legalized status or pathway to citizenship but allows individuals into the country in extreme circumstances. These Afghans, along with another 2,000 who did not come to the country as part of that evacuation effort, are eligible to apply for the protections as well.
TPS can be granted by the secretary of homeland security in instances when people cannot be safely sent back because of temporary conditions in their home country, such as armed conflict, environmental disasters, and other extreme circumstances. DHS officials will soon file a notice in the Federal Register to allow Afghans currently in the US to obtain the protections.
Earlier this month, the Biden administration allowed Ukrainians in the US to apply for temporary protected status and has offered the same protections for Sudanese, Haitian, and South Sudanese people since last year.
A bill in Congress, called the Afghan Adjustment Act, would allow certain Afghans in the US the opportunity to gain permanent status but efforts to pass the legislation have been difficult and its future appears uncertain.