Syrian Christians in the U.S. Fear They Could be Deported Back to Their Homeland as Temporary Protected Status is in Jeopardy

Syrian immigrants with temporary protected status who met with members of Congress pose for a picture outside of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. on July 17, 2019. | American Relief Coalition for Syria (ARCS)

Thousands of Syrian immigrants in the U.S., including Christians, could be at risk of deportation back to their dangerous and deadly home country. A decision by the Trump administration to extend their longstanding temporary protected status has yet to be made as a crucial deadline looms, advocates say. 

With a Sept. 30 deadline, advocates say that a decision is expected on Thursday by Acting Director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ken Cuccinelli, on whether the temporary protected status will continue for 7,000 Syrians seeking refuge in the U.S.

Temporary protected status is given by the Department of Homeland Security to immigrants from countries suffering through war or disaster who came legally to the U.S. in order to give them the ability to stay and work until conditions in their country improve.

For Syrians in the U.S., TPS status was first designated under the Obama administration in March 2012 and has been extended ever since.

The last time TPS protection for Syrians in the U.S. was extended was in March 2018. However, the administration did not at that time re-designate the TPS status for Syria, meaning that Syrian immigrants who came to the U.S. after Aug. 1, 2016, are not eligible for the protection.

Jameson Cunningham, policy and public affairs strategist with Americans for a Free Syria and a former Capitol Hill staffer, told The Christian Post that TPS status for Syrians could be in “jeopardy” at a time in which the Syrian government, it’s global allies, and militant groups increase fighting in Syria.

“The deadline is September 30 for current holders but we’ve heard the administration has put a self-imposed deadline of tomorrow,” Jameson said on Wednesday.

From what Cunningham and others have heard through officials at DHS is that Cuccinelli, an immigration hardliner appointed in June, has expressed “skepticism” on immigration and “these types of issues.”

“The story is that TPS might be in jeopardy for Syrian Christians for the first time, even when the violence is actually escalating in Syria,” Cunningham said.

“President Trump, Vice President Pence, Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo have all emphasized protecting Christians who are in danger of being persecuted around the world,” he added. “Syrian Christians could be sent back. And, anyone who left the country is seen as an enemy by the Assad regime. In government-controlled areas, Syrians returning from abroad are routinely met with arrest, disappearance, or forced conscription.”

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith