Thousands of Syrians Get Back-Door Amnesty

‘Temporary protected status’ allows migrants to remain in U.S. — without scrutiny

by Brendan Kirby | Updated 02 Aug 2016 at 3:10 PM

Republican congressional leaders last year made a big show of opposing President Obama’s plan to rapidly expand the number of Syrian refugees entering the country — but they have been markedly silent about a back-door effort announced this week.

The Department of Homeland Security said Monday that it would extend “temporary protected status” for Syrians in the United States, allowing them to stay until at least March 2018. The program allows Syrians who came to the United States — legally or illegally — to be protected from deportation and to get authorization to work in the country.

“Can you truly vet these people to ensure they’re not going to do us harm?” he said. “At least through the refugee process, you’re going to have the screening process.”

Currently, more than 8,000 Syrians are living in the United States on temporary protected status (TPS). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan both loudly supported a bill last year that would have required administration officials to personally certify that each Syrian refugee was not a danger to national security. Neither Ryan nor McConnell has spoken publicly about the TPS expansion, however, and representatives from both offices did not immediately respond to inquiries from LifeZette.

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The background checks run on TPS participants are less stringent even than the screening of foreigners entering on some types of visas, let alone the multilayered vetting that refugees receive — procedures that FBI Director James Comey and other top government officials have said are insufficient to guarantee that terrorists cannot slip through.

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, said Syrians who sneak across the southern border are eligible to remain under TPS.

"You don't even have to show you've been persecuted," she said. "You just have to get here."

The TPS program was designed to provide humanitarian relief to people fleeing war or natural disasters in their home countries. Currently, people from 13 different countries are living in the United States under TPS. The government last month announced an expansion of its Central American Minors program that will allow TPS participants from three counties to sponsor relatives to come to the United States.

‘Temporarily’ in the U.S.
Granted temporary protected status
CountryDesignatedNumber
El Salvador2001195K
Syria20128.3K
Honduras199957K
Nicaragua19992.55K
Guinea2014990
Liberia20142.1K
Sierra Leonne20141.15K
Sudan2013450
South Sudan201675 to 200
Yemen2015500 to 2K
Haiti201150K
Nepal201510-25K
Somalia2012270
Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Chris Chmielenski, director of content and activism for the advocacy group NumbersUSA, said his organization tends to oppose TPS designations because they rarely are temporary in practice.

"Once you first offer it to a group, you get into situations like this," he said. "They never revoke it."

For instance, TPS was granted in 1999 to people from Honduras and Nicaragua living in the United States. The government has repeatedly renewed the designations since. The current designations run to January 2018.

Chmielenski said concerns should be heightened for Syrians because of national security concerns. He said the issues are the same for anyone from the war-torn country who want to come to the United States — given the fact that the Islamic State has stated its intentions of infiltrating the refugee program.

"Can you truly vet these people to ensure they're not going to do us harm?" he said. "At least through the refugee process, you're going to have the screening process."

Kyle Shideler, director of threat assessment for the Center for Security Policy, said the program gives the Obama administration one more tool to achieve its goal of taking in Syrian refugees.

"They are looking for any method they can to complete this process," he said.

Vaughan said the TPS program is drawn more broadly for Syrians than other foreigners. Normally, TPS is granted only to foreigners who were in the United States on a given date. As a result, the number of participants dwindles over time. But each time the government extended the program for Syrians, it has applied to people who arrived since the original designation.

In 2012, about 2,500 Syrians took advantage of the protected status, and that number doubled when the government extended it 18 months later.

"Literally, if you just arrived here yesterday, you get the work permit," Vaughan said.

  1. Illegal Immigration
  2. immigration
  3. refugees
  4. Syrian refugees
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