Due to a civil war in their home country, Ethiopians in the United States will be able to stay for 18 months and apply for work permits, U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials announced Friday.
Ethiopians who were in the United States as of October 20, whether on student or tourist visas or in the country without proper documentation, will be able to apply for Temporary Protected Status. The statute protects immigrants from possible deportation.
The status is granted to citizens of countries where conditions are too dangerous for their return, whether due to natural disaster, armed conflict or other disasters.
US officials estimate that 26,700 Ethiopians will be eligible to apply for the protection, which was granted because the war between Ethiopian government forces and the Tigrayan minority had put civilians at risk of being raped and killed, along with others human rights violations.
Earlier this year, the Biden administration allowed Ukrainians in the United States to apply for Temporary Protected Status and offered the same protections to Afghans. The expansion contrasts with the Trump administration, which has sought to roll back protections for multiple nationalities.
“The United States recognizes the ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions in Ethiopia, and DHS is committed to providing temporary protection to those in need,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro said. N. Mayorkas in a statement. “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 at home improve.
The administration can renew the eligibility of a nationality. Some Haitians, for example, have been eligible, with repeated renewals, since an earthquake devastated their homeland in 2010. The Biden administration increased the number of Haitians eligible for protections last year.
Immigrant advocates have criticized the program for sometimes extending temporary protection over and over again without clearing the way for a green card for people who have built their lives in this country.
About 356,000 people in the United States were born in Ethiopia or have Ethiopian ancestry, according to the Migration Policy Institute’s analysis of US census data. About 12% live in California and 11% in Virginia.
In Los Angeles, Little Ethiopia on Fairfax Avenue is lined with restaurants and shops.
Bakimos Kidane, 34, fears that his family members in Ethiopia will be targeted by the authorities because they belong to the Tigrayan minority. Other family members were arrested, he said.
Kidane, who has a fintech start-up in Los Angeles, is feeding his fears from afar. It is not safe for Ethiopians in the United States to return home, he said.
“Send [Tigrayans] back to Ethiopia, I think that would be total negligence,” he said. “Ethiopia is not a safe haven – it’s not the homeland they knew was back before November 2020.”
A UN expert report released in September found that 90% of the population of the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia were in “urgent” need of assistance. The report states that Ethiopian government forces have committed war crimes and opposing forces in Tigray also appear to have committed human rights abuses and war crimes.
Advocates and politicians have called on the Biden administration to extend Temporary Protected Status to Ethiopians as the civil war, which began in 2020, escalates.
“Protecting Ethiopians, the second largest community of Africans in the United States, from a return to untenable conditions is a vital statement to Ethiopia and our allies that our nation is restoring its commitment to human rights, around the world and at home,” dozens of immigrant rights advocates said. and the leaders wrote in 2021. “Furthermore, like many TPS holders, Ethiopians have served as essential workers during the pandemic, contributing to the economy and enriching American communities.
The US State Department warns US citizens not to travel to the Tigray region “due to armed conflict, civil unrest and crime”.
“Every time you hear there’s a bombing – I hope and pray they haven’t gone home and wait until the next time I hear from them. Sometimes it takes a while,” Remhai Menelik from San Francisco said of his family in Ethiopia.
Menelik, 29, who runs a nonprofit called Free Tigray, said she couldn’t imagine anyone returning to the country at the moment.
“Ethiopia is not a place where Tigrayans can actually live and survive right now,” she said.
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