ADC & AAI:  Joint Statement on DHS Meeting Regarding TPS

Washington, DC | | February 24, 2012 - Today, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the Arab American Institute (AAI) and representatives from a number of Arab American and Syrian American organizations met with officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to discuss the implementation of government protections for Syrian nationals currently residing in the United States.

For nearly a year, Syria has been the scene of widespread violence, leading to the deaths of over 8,000 people, as well as countless arrests. ADC, AAI, and various refugee and immigrant groups have received hundreds of requests from Syrian citizens currently working or studying in the United States, who fear for their lives if they are forced to return to Syria. In December, AAI submitted a request to the Obama administration to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Syrians currently in the U.S., as a simple, effective, and humanitarian solution for the thousands of Syrians living in America. In January, ADC filed an official petition to DHS with a coalition of other organizations, detailing the case for TPS implementation.

At today’s meeting, DHS officials offered a number of helpful means by which Syrian nationals can extend their visas, gain temporary work permissions, or apply for asylum status, all of which can be found on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.

Though recognition of the grave dangers faced by Syrian nationals abroad is important, more must be done to extend protections on a broader and more proactive basis. Temporary Protected Status would allow Syrian nationals to remain in the U.S. for an extended period, without requiring onerous case-by-case adjudication. It remains the most efficient, reasonable, and effective way to materially protect thousands of lives in a manner that upholds and defends our national interests.

ADC Legal Director, Abed Ayoub, stated, "We welcome the fact that DHS acknowledges the need for TPS, however given the urgency of the request, we publically call on the Department of State and DHS to act immediately and officially grant the request, to protect all those in danger of being forced back to Syria.”

“I appreciated the concern demonstrated at the meeting,” said AAI President Jim Zogby, “But I can't understand why, two months after we requested TPS, this issue is still being studied. If it's too dangerous for US Embassy staff to be in Damascus, then TPS should be a ‘no brainer.’”

The department has yet to issue a formal recommendation on the implementation of TPS protections for Syrians, but we hope they will recognize the importance and urgency of the situation and act quickly to resolve this matter.