Amidst Eastern Ghouta Extermination Campaign, Syrian-American Organizations Call for #SaveGhouta Week of Action
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
The Syrian American Council has been working closely with fellow Syrian-American organizations, as well as a broad and remarkable group of human rights, immigration, advocacy, legal, and faith groups to advocate for the extension and redesignation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Syria ahead of the administration's expected decision on this life-saving program by the end of January 2018.
Groups across the spectrum have worked tirelessly to produce coalition letters, advocacy reports, legal petitions and more. What follows is an attempt to gather all of these resources in a central location:
Legal Petition & Addendum to DHS submitted by Syrian-American organizations: not made publicly available
Letters to Government Officials
Grassroots Action and Resources
Sample Script for Congressional Call-In Action & Visual Products by Syrian-American Organizations
#SaveTPS Tweetstorm Social Media Booklet by Syrian Forum USA
Profiles of Syrian TPS-Holders by American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
Two Pager on TPS for Syria by American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
Video: Story of Amer by Syrian Community Network
Profiles of Syrian TPS-Holders by Oxfam
Arab News:"Syrians in the US fear deportation if 'protected status' is removed"
Middle East Eye: "Syrians in US fear Trump may end their 'protected status'"
NPR: "Nearly 7,000 Syrians Are Waiting to See If Their Protected Status Will Be Renewed"
Reuters: "Syrians with temporary U.S. protection brace for Trump decision"
The Gazette: "Syrian student at University of Iowa faces precarious future"
The Intercept: "Trump Administration Weighs Whether to Extend Protections for Thousands of Syrians"
The National: "6,900 Syrians in the US face risk of deportation if Trump ends protection"
At the end of January 2018, the Department of Homeland Security is set to make a decision on Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Syria, a program that allows 6,900 Syrians to live and work legally in the United States.
Ahead of this decision, the Coalition for a Democratic Syria (of which the Syrian American Council is a member), the American Relief Coalition for Syria, and Americans for a Free Syria have been joined by over 50 human rights, immigration, advocacy, and faith groups and organizations in a coalition letter to the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State calling for the extension and redesignation of TPS for Syria.
The letter explains: "The brutal war crimes and crimes against humanity, widespread arrests and repression, and starvation and medical deteriorations that Syrians inside the country are subjected to on a regular basis make the return of TPS beneficiaries untenable and tantamount to a death sentence."
A full text of the letter is available here.
This coalition letter occurs on the heels of a number of initiatives taken on by the Syrian American organizations and their allies on TPS, including but not limited to the submission of a legal petition to the Department of Homeland Security, congressional advocacy on TPS, grassroots education and awareness, and community and legal support for TPS-holders.
On Friday, January 19, 2018, a second letter calling for the extension and redesignation of TPS will be submitted to the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department by humanitarian organizations with operations on the ground.
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(Washington, DC | December 27, 2017) The Syrian American Council (SAC) iterates its utter rejection of the upcoming Russian-organized Sochi Congress, intended to bypass the UN-based Geneva talks and to allow Assad to continue governing over Syria with absolute impunity.
In a position paper published today, SAC outlines Russia's intent behind Sochi as a means by which to cement Assad in the presidency, makes the case for why elections and a new constitution are insufficient to achieve transitional justice in Syria, and explains why Russia and Iran cannot be expected to serve as neutral arbiters.
"The Syrian people refuse to partake in a process that, at its core, is meant to deprive them of their voice and erase the demands first made by peaceful protesters in 2011, for the butcher of Syria to step down.” says Zaki Lababidi, Vice-President of SAC. "To take the issue of Assad's departure entirely off the negotiating table is one of the clearest indicators that the Sochi Congress-held on a hostile land belonging to a power that has empowered the Assad regime to continue its crimes-- does not constitute a fair and equitable political transition tool."
To read SAC's position paper on the Sochi Congress, please click here.