Homeland Security announced a new deportation amnesty for Ethiopians, saying the ongoing conflict in their home country means they have access to Temporary Protected Status here in the United States.
The move, which immigrant rights advocates have been calling for, is the latest exercise of executive powers by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who in 20 months has granted reprieves of deportations to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants.
“Ethiopian nationals currently residing in the United States who cannot return safely due to conflict-related violence and a humanitarian crisis involving severe food shortages, flooding, drought, and displacement, will be able to stay and work in the United States until conditions in their home country improve,” Mayorkas said.
He cited both the armed conflict and the “extraordinary and temporary conditions” of drought, food shortage and disease in Ethiopia which he said make it dangerous for citizens to return from abroad.
The TPS grants an 18-month reprieve from deportation and entitles them to work permits, allowing them to put down roots here.
It is meant to be a temporary status that expires when conditions in the countries of origin improve, although there are hundreds of thousands of people who have been living under TPS since the turn of the century, subsequent administrations and judges federal authorities ordering the renewal of the status.
Capitol Hill Democrats have also proposed legislation that would convert temporary status into a full path to citizenship for longtime TPS holders.
Supporters had been pushing for a TPS designation for Ethiopia for months.
They suggested there were racial issues with how the Biden administration administered the program after Afghanistan and Ukraine won TPS, but Ethiopia languished.
Homeland Security did not specify how many Ethiopians would be eligible. This information will likely follow in a full regulatory filing later.
The Washington area is home to a large Ethiopian community, with several sources citing it as the largest community outside of Ethiopia itself.
Activists cheered Friday’s announcement.
“This decision is a potentially vital reprieve for tens of thousands of Ethiopians who have already contributed so much to American communities,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. .