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U.S. expands protected status for thousands of Afghan nationals

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KABUL – The Biden administration has taken steps to safeguard the well-being of Afghan nationals residing in the United States, in response to the ongoing challenges faced by their home country under Taliban rule. The Department of Homeland Security granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Afghanistan, affording temporary legal protection to approximately 3,100 eligible Afghans already within U.S. borders. This initiative aimed to provide a haven for those who could not safely return to their homeland due to deteriorating conditions.

In a further development, the Department of Homeland Security has extended the TPS designation for the existing beneficiaries by an additional 18 months, ensuring their legal status remains intact until May 20, 2025. Moreover, this extension encompasses an additional 14,600 eligible Afghans who entered the United States between the initial TPS designation in March 2022 and the latest decision.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas emphasized the importance of this move, stating, “Today’s announcement to extend and redesignate TPS for Afghanistan allows us to continue to offer safety and protection to Afghan nationals who are unable to return to their country. DHS will continue to support Afghan nationals through this temporary form of humanitarian relief.”

The initial granting of TPS to Afghanistan came in response to the Taliban’s resurgence in August 2021, coinciding with the U.S. withdrawal. Operation Allies Welcome saw the relocation of over 70,000 Afghan evacuees to the United States.

The Department of Homeland Security has justified its decision by citing the ongoing armed conflict in Afghanistan, coupled with severe shortages of essential resources such as food, clean water, and healthcare. The country also grapples with destroyed infrastructure, internal displacement, and economic instability.

Human rights advocates have largely welcomed this move as a positive step, yet they emphasize the need for further support to this vulnerable group. Specifically, they call on Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act, which offers a pathway to lawful permanent residence for Afghan evacuees, further ensuring their security and stability in the United States.

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