Hundreds of Somalis in Minnesota await decision on protected status

Published 9:29 pm Wednesday, July 18, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is expected to decide by Thursday whether it will extend temporary legal protections for about 250 Somalis who fled violence and famine in their home country, many of whom live in Minnesota.

If the special status is not extended, some Somali families who have built lives in Minnesota could be forced to separate, according to a press release.

Then-President George H.W. Bush initially approved the special immigration designation for Somalia in 1991 due to the country’s civil war. The designation has been extended 22 times since then. The program, known at ‘temporary protected status’ has shielded many Somalis from deportation.

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The program was created to help people from countries that are wracked by armed conflicts, natural disasters and other forms of civil conflict.

President Donald Trump’s administration has argued that the program was never meant to be a long-term solution for immigrants and has already revoked protections for immigrants from seven countries.

Shortly before the election, Trump singled out Somalis during a trip to Minnesota, saying large numbers of Somali refugees were coming to the state without being properly vetted and were spreading extremist views.

But immigration advocates have warned that many Somalis facing loss of their protected status would be subjected to a bleak future in their country, which is stricken by armed conflict and a devastating drought.

“Terminating TPS would essentially be a death sentence” for Somalis forced to return, said Mustafa Jumale, co-founder of the Black Immigrant Collective, an advocacy group for black immigrants and their families. “Given the option of going back to face certain violence, many would choose to become undocumented.”

The U.S. State Department has also issued a travel advisory for the country, saying violent crimes, including kidnapping and murder, are widespread throughout the country.