Durbin Statement on Temporary Protected Status for Syria
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - US Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) released the following statement today after the Obama Administration announced that temporary protected status (TPS) would be extended to Syrian nationals currently in the United States. Such a designation allows Syrians living in the United States to temporarily stay because violence in their home country poses a serious threat to their safety. Durbin, along with Senators Leahy (D-VT), Feinstein (D-CA), Menendez (D-NJ), Cardin (D-MD) and Casey (D-PA) wrote to President Obama earlier this month requesting the designation.
“I strongly support today’s extension of temporary protected status to Syrians and thank the Obama Administration for moving swiftly to help those who otherwise would be forced to return to one of the most violent places on earth,” Durbin said. “Our nation’s leadership in rallying the international community’s condemnation of the Assad regime’s brutal campaign of repression is important. Today’s decision complements that leadership by sending a clear and positive signal to the Arab world 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.
It is clearly 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. A 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 issued to Syrian nationals.
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.
A copy of the letter to President Obama is below.
March 1, 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.
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