Nearly six months after the withdrawal of the last U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has designated Temporary Protected Status for Afghanistan, allowing over 74,000 Afghan nationals already living in the United States to apply for protection from deportation.
The head of DHS, Alejandro Mayorkas, announced the designation of Afghanistan for TPS Wednesday morning, which will allow over 74,000 Afghans already in the United States on or before March 15, 2022 to apply for protection from deportation back to Afghanistan. The designation will last for 18 months, and will also provide employment authorization to those who are approved.
The Biden administration has been under increasing pressure to provide protections and paths to residency for the tens of thousands of Afghans who were evacuated following the announcement of the phased withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan by President Donald Trump in February 2020 until the collapse of the Afghan government on August 15, 2021 and the final withdrawal of U.S. troops on August 30, 2021.
Since the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban on August 15 of last year, the country has faced worsening crises, including an acute food shortage and an explosion in childhood malnutrition which threatens “an entire generation of Afghans.”
“This TPS designation will help to protect Afghan nationals who have already been living in the United States from returning to unsafe conditions,” said Secretary 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.”
DHS can designate a country for TPS when conditions in the foreign country are too dangerous to return people, such as ongoing armed conflict, natural disasters, epidemics, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. The status provides protection from deportation and work authorization, but provides no path to permanent residency or citizenship.
DHS designated Sudan and extended and redesignated South Sudan on March 2, 2022, and then designated Ukraine for TPS later that same week. This increased calls from many immigration organizations and advocates to designate Afghanistan as well.
The formal notice is expected to be published in the Federal Register in the coming days, which will start the clock on the 18-month designation.