Mar 16, 2022 - Politics & Policy

DHS offering temporary protection and work permits to Afghans in U.S.

 Afghan families walk through the waiting area for departure to the USA
Afghan families walk through the waiting area for departure to the U.S. Photo: Boris Roessler/picture alliance via Getty Images

Afghans in the U.S. as of Tuesday can avoid deportation and obtain work permits for the next 18 months through Temporary Protected Status (TPS), the Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: The new designation will ensure Afghans in the U.S. without proper documentation, whose temporary visas may soon expire or who were recently brought to the U.S. on parole can continue living and working in the U.S. without fear of return to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan for at least the next year and a half.

  • The government pointed to ongoing armed conflict in Afghanistan as reason for the designation. The conflict poses a serious safety threat "as the Taliban seeks to impose control in all areas of the country and Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) conducts attacks against civilians," DHS said
  • DHS also cited the devastated economy in Afghanistan, drought, food and water insecurity, as well as other humanitarian concerns on the ground.

What they're saying: "TPS will also provide additional protections and assurances to trusted partners and vulnerable Afghans who supported the U.S. military" over the last 20 years, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.

  • Roughly 80,000 Afghans have been evacuated and brought to the U.S. since the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan last August. Most were brought in through a mechanism called parole, which provides them deportation protection and work permits for two years.
  • After that, seeking asylum is one of the only ways for many Afghans to legally stay in the U.S. long term.
  • Now, Afghans brought here since August can apply for TPS, which will ensure protections for at least 18 months — and possibly longer if the status is extended.

The big picture: TPS is used when immigrant home countries cannot safely accept those who have been deported. There are currently 12 countries with TPS designations, including Haiti, Somalia and Myanmar.

  • As of last May, there were around 320,000 people living in the U.S. under the policy.
  • Mayorkas has also recently announced new TPS statuses or extensions for Ukraine, South Sudan and Sudan.
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