Washington, DC (January 31, 2018)- Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it is extending, but not redesignating Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Syria. While we, as Syrian American organizations, are reassured by the extension which will allow Syrians with current-TPS status to remain inside the country, we are deeply disturbed by the failure of the Administration to redesignate TPS--a decision that will prevent nearly 2,000 non-TPS-holders already living in the United States from applying for TPS. This decision constitutes a break with practice, which has consistently seen both extension and redesignation every 18 months for TPS for Syria since the initial designation was made in March 2012. With the war in Syria ongoing, mass atrocities continuing, and humanitarian travesty overtaking the region, we, as Syrian American organizations, are extremely concerned that any premature repatriation of Syrians could be tantamount to a death sentence.
Syrian TPS holders include creative entrepreneurs, dedicated teachers, and hardworking employees who contribute to our country’s economy, strengthen our national fabric, and reflect positively on our diverse heritage. Syrian TPS holders are already present in the United States, are vetted regularly, and are subjected to extensive background checks. About 5,800 Syrian current-TPS holders are eligible for extension of TPS. About 2,000 Syrians living in the United States would be eligible to apply for TPS in the case of redesignation.
Since the war first began in Syria, more than 500,000 Syrians have been killed, at least 5.5 million Syrians have registered as refugees, and at least 6.1 million Syrians have been internally displaced from their homes. The State Department’s January 2018 travel advisory confirms: “No part of Syria is safe from violence.” Syrians forced to return prematurely to their country face a number of dire scenarios: becoming the target of barrel bombs, airstrikes, sieges, or chemical weapons attacks; being subjected to arbitrary arrest or forced conscription by Syrian authorities; or being unable to access the most basic necessities, including food, water, and medical care.
Until the disastrous human rights and humanitarian situation in Syria stabilizes; the ongoing war comes to a clear end; and the extraordinary circumstances at hand subside, the Syrian American organizations continue to call on this Administration to support policies like TPS which allow those fleeing unspeakable crimes and haunting scenes of war to temporarily seek refuge in a country that has built its national fabric from diversity, openness, and tolerance.
The Syrian American organizations referenced in this statement include:
Americans for a Free Syria
American Relief Coalition for Syria
Hope Foundation for Relief and Development
Mercy Without Limits
Rahma Relief Foundation
Shaam Relief Foundation
Swasia Charity Foundation
Syria Relief and Development
Syrian American Engineers Association
Syrian American Medical Society
Syrian Community Network
Syrian Expatriates Organization
Syrian Forum USA
Coalition for a Democratic Syria
American Syriac Union
Association of Free Syrians
Syrian American Council
Syrian Christians for Peace
Syrian Emergency Task Force