WASHINGTON (AP) — People in the U.S. from Sudan and South Sudan can stay with temporary legal status to escape the conflict and natural disasters in their homelands, the Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday. It faces pressure to grant the same to Ukrainians.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas cited political instability, unrest, and armed conflict as he approved a new designation of Sudan for what’s known as temporary protected status and extended an existing one for neighboring South Sudan.
There are 12 countries whose nationals receive temporary protected status, a program that former President Donald Trump sought to curtail amid criticism of frequent extensions that have enabled people to live in the U.S. for years in a kind of legal limbo.
Members of Congress have recently called on the Biden administration to grant the status to people from Ukraine following Russia’s invasion of their country.
South Sudan has been designated for TPS since 2011, and it has been extended in 18-month increments ever since. Sudan has been designated since 1997 and was re-designated to account for the recent military takeover of the government.
They were one country until 2011, when the south seceded following decades of civil war.
DHS noted that South Sudan faces increased violence from government security forces and armed groups and three years of widespread unprecedented flooding that has put millions at risk of famine in adding the country to the list of countries whose people have temporary protected status in the U.S.
“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,” Mayorkas said in a statement.
The announcement affects a relatively small number of people. DHS said there are about 97 beneficiaries under the TPS designation for South Sudan and the extension will enable about 235 more to obtain the status.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says there are about 700 people from Sudan with TPS and 2,390 who are newly eligible under the new designation.
Anyone from either country who arrived in the U.S. after Tuesday would not be eligible for the temporary status, which requires a background security check and does not make anyone automatically in line to receive permanent legal status.