U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Thursday announced the extension and redesignation of Afghanistan for Temporary Protected Status. Photo by Cristobal Herrera-Ulashkevich/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 22 (UPI) -- The Biden administration announced it is granting protection from deportation to thousands of Afghan nationals in the United States, citing deteriorating conditions in their native country under Taliban rule that prevent them from returning.
The Department of Homeland Security on March 15, 2022, granted Afghanistan Temporary Protected Status, offering temporary legal status to some 3,100 eligible Afghans already in the United States.
On Thursday, the department allowed those current beneficiaries to retain their TPS designation for another 18 months through May 20, 2025, while offering the same legal status to an additional 14,600 eligible Afghans who entered the United States between the initial designation of March 2022 and Wednesday.
"Today's announcement to extend and redesignate TPS for Afghanistan allows us to continue to offer safety and protection to Afghan nationals who are unable to return to their country," Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. "DHS will continue to support Afghan nationals through this temporary form of humanitarian relief."
The Biden administration first granted TPS to Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban regaining rule over the Middle Eastern country in August 2021 amid the United States' withdrawal. With Operation Allies Welcome, more than 70,000 Afghan evacuees were relocated in the United States.
The Department of Homeland Security said its decision to grant TPS to Afghanistan is because it is experiencing armed conflict as well as a lack of access to food, clean water and healthcare and because of destroyed infrastructure, internal displacement and economic instability.
The announcement was largely welcomed by human rights advocates as a step in the right direction, but they said more needs to be done to help this vulnerable group, and they specifically called on Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act, which provides a path to lawful permanent residence for Afghan evacuees.
"The Biden administration's redesignation of Temporary Protected Status for Afghans honors our commitment to our allies, and is a welcome step," Chris Purdy, director of Human Rights First's Veterans for American Ideals and Outreach, said in a statement.
"While we celebrate this act of protection for Afghans, we know that they cannot rely on temporary measures to build their lives in the United States."
Krish O'Mara Vignarajah, president and chief executive of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said while the TPS designation protects Afghans from being deported back to Taliban rule, the United States has "failed" to fulfill its promise of permanent protection to those who supported Washington's mission in Afghanistan.
"While TPS offers a vital safety net, Afghan nationals need and deserve lasting protection," Vignarajah said in a statement.
The announcement came a day after the Biden administration extended TPS for Venezuela, offering protection from deportation to hundreds of thousands of citizens from the South American country.