Syrians in US To Get Extended Stay

Syrians in US will be able to have their visas extended because of decision by State Department
Syrians in US will be able to have their visas extended because of decision by State Department
Mana Rabiee

The United States says it will designate a special protection status for Syrian nationals in the U.S., which will allow them to remain in the country until it becomes safer for them to return home to Syria.

The Department of Homeland Security, in an online statement released on Friday, said it will issue a Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for Syrians already in the country.

The move will allow Syrian nationals visiting the U.S. - on tourist, business, student and other such visas - to remain beyond the designated period of their visas.

In announcing the move, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said conditions in Syria have worsened to the point where Syrian nationals already in the United States would face “serious threats to their personal safety” if they were to return to their home country.

Earlier in March, six Democratic senators sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to quickly designate Syrian nationals for the Temporary Protection Status.

The letter on March 1 said forcing Syrians to return to their country in the midst of ongoing violence would “undermine U.S. leadership” and be inconsistent with what the senators said is America’s “traditional role as a safe haven for those fleeing repression.”

Humanitarian Crisis Grows

The effort to issue the status to Syrian nationals was spearheaded in part by a coalition of advocacy groups in the U.S. concerned about the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

Attorney Abed Ayoub is Legal Director of one of those groups, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the largest Arab-American civil rights organization in the U.S.

He helped lead the coalition to petition the Department of Homeland Security in January for the Temporary Protection Status.

Earlier this month, he said the humanitarian situation in Syria was so dire that requiring anybody to return would be “inhumane.”

“We can’t put these individual’s lives in jeopardy,” he said. “If the U.S. State Department feels the embassy over there is not safe enough for their employees, then, for sure, the country’s not safe enough to force nationals to return.”

The Department of Homeland Security’s immigration registry shows there are roughly 3,000 Syrian nationals in the U.S. who would be eligible for the status, although Arab-American activists like Ayoub say the number is much higher.

Syrians Talk of Fears

Nassib Nwelati is among those worried about the possibility of having to go back to Syria when his visa expires.  He is in the U.S. on an academic scholarship to study business.  His student visa expires in four months and, until the announcement Friday, he felt unsure of where else to turn.

“Many Syrians I know are scared to go back,” said Nassib. “They have been so worried because not only you need to worry about what’s going on in Syria and watch the news and cry for these people, but also you need to worry about your status because the time is ticking, the clock is ticking.”   

The Department of Homeland Security is expected to announce details Thursday on how Syrians already visiting the U.S. may apply for the Temporary Protection Status.   All applicants will have to undergo full background checks.

The U.S. government has issued similar “blanket” protections to foreign nationals in the past, including to Haitians following the earthquake of 2010 and most recently in 2011 to nationals of South Sudan.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs