WASHINGTON – The Biden administration is expanding the number of Sudanese and South Sudanese immigrants in the US who can apply for temporary protected status, which shields people from deportation and allows them to obtain work permits, according to Department of Homeland Security officials.
The decision to newly designate Sudan for temporary protected status — and redesignate South Sudan — comes several years after former president Donald Trump sought to take away the protections, but a federal court judge blocked him in 2018.
“Sudan is currently experiencing political instability and unrest, and armed conflict in South Sudan has displaced millions of residents,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. “After careful consideration, I have decided to offer temporary protection to Sudanese and South Sudanese nationals in the United States until conditions in each country improve and individuals can safely return.”
The latest designations of temporary protected status will apply to eligible Sudanese and South Sudanese immigrants who were in the US as of March 1. The decision to create a new designation allows for an additional 2,390 Sudanese to apply for TPS on top of the more than 700 who already have it. The protections had previously only been available to those in the US as of 2013. The designation of TPS runs for 18 months.
The redesignation will allow for an extra 235 South Sudanese nationals to obtain TPS on top of the 97 who already have it and will be extended until November 2023.
TPS can be granted by the secretary of homeland security when immigrants cannot be safely removed to their home country because of temporary conditions there, such as armed conflict, environmental disasters, and other extreme circumstances.
DHS officials will soon file a notice in the Federal Register to allow Sudanese currently in the US to obtain the protections. The notice for South Sudanese is expected to be published on Wednesday.
The agency said in a statement that a military takeover in Sudan had “triggered political instability, violence, and human rights abuses against civilians. A humanitarian crisis linked to unprecedented floods; food and clean water shortages; violence between the communities of Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan; and internal displacement is ongoing.”
Reuters reported this week that at least 84 people have been killed in crackdowns in Sudan since a coup in October undid the previous government leadership. Earlier this week, protesters in Khartoum were also reportedly hit with tear gas. Meanwhile, Reuters, citing United Nations researchers, documented how 440 people were recently killed in a South Sudanese county. The deaths came after rival armies clashed last fall.
When federal judge Edward Chen stopped Trump’s effort to undo TPS for Sudan in 2018, he said many of the immigrants who would be affected had US-born children, and could be faced “with the Hobson’s choice of bringing their children with them (and tearing them away from the only country and community they have known) or splitting their families apart.”
“In contrast, the government has failed to establish any real harm were the status quo (which has been in existence for as long as two decades) is maintained during the pendency of this litigation,” he added.