July 5, 2018 -- Today, United States Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen extended Yemen’s Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months, but did not re-designate TPS so that other eligible immigrants from Yemen can apply for its protections. While the Yemen Peace Project is relieved that the administration has refrained from returning an estimated 1,200 Yemenis to a destructive civil war and humanitarian crisis, we condemn the decision to not re-designate, effectively shutting all domestic doors to Yemenis seeking to escape a conflict that the US government has a hand in perpetuating.
Established in the 1990s, TPS offers temporary residency and work permissions to residents of countries experiencing armed conflicts or extraordinary conditions (such as famine or natural disaster) that prevent safe return, renewable for periods up to 18 months. TPS was first granted to Yemen in September 2015, roughly a year after the start of the country’s civil war; it was extended and re-designated in early 2017 due to both the worsening of the civil war and the onset of the country’s complex humanitarian crises. At the same time, however, the Trump administration pushed forward multiple iterations of a travel ban on nationals from Yemen and a number of other Muslim-majority nations. In June 2018, the Supreme Court upheld the third iteration of this Muslim ban on fallacious national security grounds, even as several justices recognized its clear anti-Muslim animus.
The Supreme Court's ruling has placed a sharp limit on the effect that TPS can have for Yemenis attempting to find some respite from conflict. In this context, the refusal to re-designate TPS, paired with its unjustifiably harsh restrictions on refugee resettlement and asylum, means that the administration has effectively shut all doors to Yemenis seeking shelter in a country that, by materially supporting one side of the civil war, contributes to the devastation from which they are leaving. This failure to re-designate has particularly inhuman repercussions for current Yemeni TPS holders. Over the last several months, the YPP has had conversations with multiple TPS recipients who were hoping to reunite with family members living in limbo in Europe, neighboring countries, or Yemen itself. For now, the Muslim ban’s laughable waiver policy notwithstanding, the administration has closed all legal avenues to the reunification of parents and their children, siblings, and spouses.
Given the Trump administration's seemingly systematic revocation of TPS for residents from other countries experiencing armed conflict and humanitarian crises, we recognize that Yemeni TPS holders have fared better than other TPS recipients in the United States. Additionally, the same xenophobic calculus that determined these decisions also tears children from their parents, militarizes borders, and seeks to revoke citizenships. Against this onslaught, only patient, determined organizing among Americans of all backgrounds, done in solidarity with our immigrant neighbors, can shift both the substance of US policy and the political climate which informs it. Even in a time of significant setbacks, we stand ready to continue this work.
Finally, we want to applaud the work of Yemenis, Yemeni-Americans, and domestic advocacy organizations that brought public pressure to bear on the administration and did secure the full 18-month extension for current TPS holders.