Obama grants protected status to Syrians in U.S. illegally

By Leo Hohmann

Syrian refugees (Photo: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees)
Syrian refugees (Photo: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees)

The Obama administration has redesignated war-torn Syria for “temporary protected status,” or TPS, meaning almost anyone from Syria who is in the United States on an expired visa can stay here for at least another 18 months.

This includes students, tourists, professors, imams or anyone else from Syria who stayed past their visas expiration dates over the last four years. They can now stay in the country without fear of deportation.

The move by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson showed up in the Federal Register Monday. It allows eligible Syrian nationals, or persons without nationality who last resided in Syria, to register or re-register for TPS in accordance with the Federal Register notice.

The move amounts to temporary amnesty for more than 8,000 Syrians. But if the Syrian situation follows that of other nations embroiled in protracted civil strife, the Syrians won’t be going home anytime soon, even after the latest 18-month extension is over.

The Obama administration has given similar protection to foreign nationals from Somalia, Haiti and other countries racked by war or natural disasters.

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Current beneficiaries under Syria’s TPS designation seeking to extend their TPS status must re-register during a 60-day period that runs from Aug. 1, 2016, through Sept. 30, 2016.

“U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) encourages beneficiaries to re-register as soon as possible,” the DHS said in the published notice.

The Syrians living here past their visa expiration date who are eligible for TPS will also be able to work in the United States.

The 18-month extension allows TPS re-registrants to apply for a new work permit, called a Employment Authorization Document, or EAD. Eligible Syria TPS beneficiaries who re-register during the 60-day period and request a new EAD will receive one with an expiration date of March 31, 2018.

“USCIS recognizes that some re-registrants may not receive their new EADs until after their current work permits expire. Therefore, USCIS is automatically extending current TPS Syria EADs with a Sept. 30, 2016, expiration date for an additional six months. These existing EADs are now valid through March 31, 2017.

Obama is also bringing in 10,000 Syrian refugees for permanent resettlement into more than 125 U.S. cities and towns. He promised the U.N. he would have all 10,000 placed in these cities by the end of the current fiscal year on Sept. 30. As of Monday afternoon, 7,689 Syrian refugees had already arrived, according to the State Department’s refugee database, and they’ve been coming at a rate of about 360 per week since May.

The top five states receiving Syrians so far this year have been Michigan with 883, California with 730, Arizona with 632, Texas with 534, Illinois with 448, Pennsylvania with 464, New York with 401 and North Carolina with 380. These numbers do not include the Syrians who were distributed to cities and towns before Oct. 1 of last year.

Obama has also been working with the United Nations to investigate “alternative pathways” of bringing more Syrians to the U.S. without calling them refugees. They will be brought here as students, under family reunification and employment schemes, and other maneuvers, as WND reported earlier this year. The result could be up to 10 times the 10,000 figure so often used.

The refugee flow from Syria is also not expected to stop with the end of the current fiscal year.

For Syrian nationals who do not currently have TPS, the TPS redesignation may allow them to apply for TPS if they have continuously resided in the United States since Aug. 1, 2016, and have been continuously physically present in the United States since Oct. 1, 2016.

Applicants may request that USCIS waive any fees based on inability to pay by filing Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver, or by submitting a written request.

All USCIS forms are available for free. Download forms or order them by mail through the USCIS website at uscis.gov/forms or by calling the USCIS Forms Request Line toll-free at 1-800-870-3676.

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