Local outcry as protected status for Somalia is at risk of being terminated

It would affect hundreds, many in Minnesota, who would then have no status

Sloane Martin
July 17, 2018 - 1:57 pm
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The Temporary Protected Status for Somalia is at risk of not being reinstated under the Trump Administration, and Minnesotans of Somali origin are urging members of Congress to help.

Advocates say the humanitarian protection status should still apply to Somalia as it deals with continued armed conflict and famine. President George H.W. Bush enacted it in 1991 during the country's civil war and it's been extended 22 times since under presidents from both parties. Some recent examples include Haiti and Nepal which endured devastating earthquakes.

Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota executive director John Keller says the Trump administration has revoked TPS from seven of 11 countries including Sudan, El Salvador and Haiti, which is break from precedent. It means those under TPS will have to navigate a new set of circumstances because there is no legislation that provides a clear path from TPS to permanent residency, no matter how long they've been in the U.S.

"In all reality, in all of our years of doing work with these communities, you lose status and become undocumented the day that TPS is terminated. You join, here in Minnesota, the 90 to 95,000 people who have no status," he said at a news conference at CAIR-Minnesota headquarters in Minneapolis Tuesday, "You will be at risk of deportation and the fact that you have a home, that fact that you've been employed and paying taxes, the fact that you have anywhere from one to five, or more, U.S. citizen children, will be irrelevant."

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, at least 250 people in the U.S. would be affected, but the number could be as high as 1,000 for those who fell out of renewal without the process re-authorized. Keller says there's reason to believe a good number of those are in Minnesota based on Somali population, but the numbers aren't recorded by state. CAIR officials want to see TPS not just extended, but reinstated so that every person who is eligible can be added on.

Many under TPS are unwilling to speak publicly due to uncertainty about their future in what Keller calls a "high enforcement, zero tolerance" environment, but Wynfred Russell with the group African Career, Education and Resource, Inc., in Brooklyn Park read a statement from a local man who fears for his life if he has to return because of the threat of the extremist group Al-Shabaab.

"I'm so scared that my TPS will be terminated," Russell read. "If I go back, I may be tortured and killed. I cannot leave my family. I'm the sole provider for my family."

Losing TPS will mean difficult decisions for families.

"Parents will have to make a decision to leave their kids here, or take them back to Somalia to face terrible conditions," Mustafa Jumale with the Black Immigrant Collective said. Officials say conditions in the country remain dire with food scarcity and civilian casualties.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar has written a letter to the secretaries of State and Homeland Security urging them to extend TPS for Somalia. It cites a United Nations report that 4,585 civilians have died resulting from armed conflict in Somali between January 2016 and October 2017. Last October, a massive truck bomb killed nearly 600 people in Mogadishu.

"We want people to at home who hear about this to know that these are their neighbors, that these are the families of the kids' friends who are going to impacted," CAIR-Minnesota executive director Jaylani Hussein said. "It will definitely impact our state. It will definitely impact the United States, and it will continue to send the wrong message to who we are as a country."

The deadline for an extension is Sept. 17.