Cantwell, Colleagues Urge Trump Administration to Extend Humanitarian Protections for Somali Nationals
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and 21 of her Senate colleagues urged the Trump Administration to extend humanitarian protections for hundreds of Somali nationals who have taken refuge in Washington state and around the country to escape from civil war, human rights abuses, and violence in their home country.
In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the senators pressed the Trump Administration to extend the protections, known as Temporary Protected Status (TPS), for the almost 500 Somali nationals living in the United States. Without the extension of TPS, scheduled to expire in September, those Somali nationals who are currently living in the United States would have to return to the extraordinarily dangerous conditions in Somalia, or find refuge in another country.
“We believe [Somalia’s] conditions continue to meet the standards for TPS extension, and failing to extend this protection could subject returnees to unnecessary violence, human rights abuses, and possibly death,” the senators wrote.
In the letter, the senators pointed to a rise in abuses by al-Shabaab and clan militias, including murder, rape, and forcing children to become soldiers, as evidence that TPS for Somali nationals continues to be warranted. The deadline for the Trump Administration to re-designate Somalia for TPS is July 19.
In April 2018, the State Department’s Country Report on Human Rights Practices found that, in Somalia, “Clan militias and al-Shabaab continued to commit grave abuses throughout the country, including extrajudicial and politically motivated killings; disappearances; cruel and unusual punishment; rape; and attacks on employees of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and the United Nations. They also blocked humanitarian assistance, conscripted child soldiers, and restricted freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and movement.”
In addition to Senator Cantwell, the letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Edward Markey (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Patty Murray (D-WA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Coons (D-DE), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tom Carper (D-DE), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Doug Jones (D-AL).
The full text of the letter is available HERE and below:
Dear Secretaries Nielsen and Pompeo:
We write to urge you to extend and re-designate Somalia for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) before the deadline on July 19, 2018. We believe the country's conditions continue to meet the standards for TPS extension, and failing to extend this protection could subject returnees to unnecessary violence, human rights abuses, and possibly death.
Somalia was first designated for TPS in September, 199 1 due to extraordinary and temporary conditions in the country. Somalia was re-designated in 2001 and 2012. Most recently, TPS designation for Somalia was extended through September 17, 2018 because conditions in the country, including "(I) ongoing armed conflict and (2) extraordinary and temporary conditions that prevent Somali nationals from returning to Somalia in safety," continued to warrant TPS designation.
These conditions continue to persist, therefore extension and re-designation of Somalia for TPS is necessary and justified. The State Department's Country Report on Human Rights Practices, released in April, 2018, states, "Clan militias and al-Shabaab continued to commit grave abuses throughout the country, including extrajudicial and politically motivated killings; disappearances; cruel and unusual punishment; rape; and attacks on employees of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and the United Nations. They also blocked humanitarian assistance, conscripted child soldiers, and restricted freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and movement." The report notes that there has been a rise in al-Shabaab recruitment of children, killings by clan militias, violence directed at humanitarian organizations, and internal displacement.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia similarly reported that "the overall security situation remains volatile."3 In October, 2017, Somalia witnessed its deadliest terrorist attack to date in a suicide attack that killed an estimated 512 people. The UN Mission also reported that as a result of a severe drought in early 2017, more than six million people continue to face food insecurity and that by the end of 2018 1.2 million children could be malnourished.
On July 9, 2018, the State Department issued a travel advisory that warns U.S. citizens not to travel to the country due to "crime, terrorism, and piracy.' Clearly, there is considerable risk that Somali nationals forced to return to their home country would face significant danger and unsafe conditions. In 1990, Congress established TPS as a form of humanitarian relief for foreign nationals in the United States who would not be able to safely return to their home countries or for countries that would not be able to handle the return of nationals due to extraordinary conditions. Since then, this protection has helped protect immigrants from returning to dangerous conditions and helped designated countries better focus their efforts to allow for a safe reintegration in the future.
We believe the conditions in Somalia clearly meet the statutory standards for TPS designation, and that forcing Somali TPS holders to return would subject them to extreme risk of violence, death, and human rights abuses. Given the violence and humanitarian crisis in Somalia, the re-designation and extension of TPS for Somalia is necessary to protect this vulnerable population.
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