African immigrants’ rights groups conducted a week of actions the last week of May to point out that they cannot afford to wait years before being granted official U.S. government protection.
Organizations representing immigrants from Sudan, Mali, Mauritania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Nigeria, and more came to Washington, D.C. to push the Biden administration to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to individuals from African nations that are unsafe to return to.
TPS status would officially designate a country as in the midst of a war, coping with an environmental disaster, or facing some other extraordinary or temporary condition that makes it a dangerous place to force an immigrant to go back to.
But Carolyn Tran, co-director of Communities United for Status & Protection (CUSP), told the AmNews the Biden administration, like previous administrations, is hesitant to grant TPS status to too many countries because doing so could allow political opponents to accuse them of opening the floodgates for more people to immigrate to the U.S. “This is something that’s very far from reality,” Tran said. “But I think that the administration––and not only this one––has kind of upheld that belief and has been very careful about designating TPS for countries that do actually meet the statutory requirements.
“TPS is provided for individuals who are already currently living in the United States. These are people who have been in the community for many years. We have TPS holders who have been here for, like, decades,” added Tran.
“So, it’s not for people who are not already here in the U.S. I think people don’t make that connection about TPS, that it’s really about protecting the community that is already in the United States and who cannot return safely back to their countries.”
Nils Kinuani, immigration department coordinator and board director for the Congolese Community of Washington Metropolitan (CCWM), said that some 2,000 members of DC’s Congolese community are currently at risk of deportation. “The armed conflict in the DRC has been going on for about 25 years and it has caused the death of five million people,” Kinuani said. “It’s the deadliest armed conflict since World War II.” Twenty million Congolese have been displaced due to the fighting and there have been natural disasters like last December’s flooding in the capital of Kinshasa and in the country’s southern regions just last month, plus the eruption of the Nyamuragira volcano in 2021.
“So being returned to the DRC is being returned to those unsafe and dangerous conditions. We request that President Biden and [Homeland Security] Secretary Mayorkas uphold their promise of protecting immigrants. The Congolese community members that are here in the U.S. need and deserve protection.”
Brooklyn’s Rep. Yvette D. Clarke, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus’s Immigration Reform Task Force, said it’s time for the U.S. to provide TPS for continental Africans who have come to the U.S. “When President Biden ran for president, he spoke about the need for us as a nation to address inequity, to address injustice, and to address fairness,” Rep. Clarke noted. “The inequity that exists within the immigration system of the United States of America is a glaring example of work that needs to be done.”
Maryland Rep. Glenn Ivey also commented that “we need to extend TPS…to all these other countries here. We need to make sure that we treat these countries just like we treated Ukraine. There’s nothing unique about that country from the standpoint of the United States being able to provide protection and assistance to people who needed to get away from political violence and danger within their country.”
The nonprofit African Communities Together (ACT) coordinated the writing of a series of letters to the Biden administration, which detail the situations Africans are facing in some countries and the reasons they require TPS.
The ACT letters point out the ongoing armed conflict in Mali, that there is an economic and political instability in Mauritania which threatens Black Mauritanians with being potentially kidnapped and enslaved, environmental and political turmoil in the DRC, kidnappings, terrorism and religious fighting in Nigeria, and renewed political fighting in Sudan.
TPS status needs to be secured for more of these Black-majority countries, advocates say.