[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - US Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Bob Casey (D-PA) wrote to President Obama today, asking his Administration to extend temporary protected status (TPS) to Syrian nationals currently in the United States. Such a designation would allow Syrians living in the United States to temporarily stay because violence in their home country poses a serious threat to their safety.

 

“In light of the ongoing violence and deteriorating security situation in Syria, we respectfully request that your Administration promptly take all necessary steps to ensure that Syrian nationals present in the United States are not forced to return to Syria, including the designation of Syria for temporary protected status (TPS),” the Senators wrote. “We commend you for your leadership in rallying the international community to condemn the Assad regime’s brutal campaign of repression. Forcing Syrian nationals to return to Syria in the midst of ongoing violence would undermine U.S. leadership and would be inconsistent with America’s traditional role as a safe haven for those fleeing repression. At this delicate moment in relations between the United States and the Arab world, granting TPS to Syria will send a positive signal about our concern for the suffering of innocent Syrian civilians.”

 

Countries currently designated for temporary protected status are El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan.

 

Syria clearly meets the standard for TPS as it is obviously too dangerous for Syrian nationals residing in the U.S. to return to Syria. The U.S. has suspended all embassy operations and all embassy personnel and their family members have left Syria due to the ongoing violence. The most recent State Department travel advisory states: The United States continues to warn U.S. citizens against travel to Syria and recommends that U.S. citizens in Syria depart immediately.” Recently the Senate unanimously passed a resolution that “strongly condemns the Government of Syria’s brutal and unjustifiable use of force against civilians, including unarmed women and children and its violations of the fundamental human rights and dignity of the people of Syria.”

 

In FY2010, 8,427 visas were issues to Syrian nationals.

 

Recently Howard Berman, Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; and John Conyers, Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to the President asking him to grant TPS to Syrian nationals. A number of advocacy organizations have also called for Syria to be designated for TPS, including the Arab-American Institute, US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Refugee Council USA, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and United for a Free Syria.

 

Durbin is the Senate’s Assistant Majority Leader and Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights; Leahy is Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee; Feinstein is the Chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; Menendez is Chairman of the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps, and Global Narcotics Affairs; Cardin is Chairman of the Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance and also Co-Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission; and Casey is Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on Near Eastern Affairs.

 

A copy of the letter to President Obama is both pasted below.

 

February 29, 2012

 

Dear President Obama:

 

In light of the ongoing violence and deteriorating security situation in Syria, we respectfully request that your Administration promptly take all necessary steps to ensure that Syrian nationals present in the United States are not forced to return to Syria, including the designation of Syria for temporary protected status (TPS).

 

As you know, TPS can be granted to nationals of another country who are currently residing in the United States if returning to their country would pose a serious threat to their personal safety because of ongoing armed conflict, the temporary effects of an environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. TPS allows eligible nationals of designated countries to remain in the United States legally until the designation expires.

 

Syria clearly meets the standard for TPS as it is obviously too dangerous for Syrian nationals to return to Syria. The United States has suspended all embassy operations and all embassy personnel and their family members have left Syria due to the ongoing violence. The most recent State Department travel advisory states: “The United States continues to warn U.S. citizens against travel to Syria and recommends that U.S. citizens in Syria depart immediately.” Last week, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution that “strongly condemns the Government of Syria’s brutal and unjustifiable use of force against civilians, including unarmed women and children and its violations of the fundamental human rights and dignity of the people of Syria.” Additionally, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution by a vote of 137-12 “[s]trongly condemning continued widespread and systematic human rights violations by the Syrian authorities.”

 

It is important to note that granting TPS to Syria will not endanger our security. An alien is ineligible for TPS if he has a criminal background or poses a threat to national security. The decision to deny, withdraw or terminate TPS is in the sole discretion of the government; there is no judicial review of such a determination. Moreover, TPS is not a backdoor to U.S. citizenship. TPS does not make a beneficiary eligible for legal permanent resident status or U.S. citizenship. When the TPS designation of a country is terminated, beneficiaries revert to the same immigration status they maintained before the designation. Only a small number of individuals will benefit from designating Syria for TPS. According to the most recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) statistics, 8,427 visitor visas were issued to Syrian nationals in FY2010, and DHS estimates that there are currently fewer than 1,000 Syrian nonimmigrants residing in the United States. Granting TPS to such a small population will create a minimal disruption for our country, but forcing these individuals to return to a war zone could have dire consequences for them.

 

We commend you for your leadership in rallying the international community to condemn the Assad regime’s brutal campaign of repression. Forcing Syrian nationals to return to Syria in the midst of ongoing violence would undermine U.S. leadership and would be inconsistent with America’s traditional role as a safe haven for those fleeing repression. At this delicate moment in relations between the United States and the Arab world, granting TPS to Syria will send a positive signal about our concern for the suffering of innocent Syrian civilians.

 

Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to your prompt reply.

 

Sincerely,

 

Senator Durbin

Senator Leahy

Senator Feinstein

Senator Menendez

Senator Cardin

Senator Casey

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