Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas granted immigrants from Cameroon temporary protection in the United States on Friday, allowing them to remain in the country for 18 months and apply for work permits.
Only Cameroonians living in the United States as of April 14 are eligible for temporary protected status TPS, which typically benefits undocumented immigrants and those with visas that are set to expire.
A 1990 immigration law authorizes DHS to grant protection to people from nations experiencing war, natural disasters and other extraordinary and temporary conditions. In the Cameroon decision, DHS cited the years-long armed conflict between the country’s English-speaking minority and French-speaking majority and a significant rise in attacks by the extremist group Boko Haram.
Officials said that hundreds of thousands of displaced Cameroonians lack access to critical services such as hospitals and schools and that the violence has triggered a “humanitarian crisis” of economic and food insecurity.
Mayorkas said the conditions make it unsafe for Cameroonians to return home.
The United States recognizes the ongoing armed conflict in Cameroon, and we will provide temporary protection to those in need, he said in a statement. Cameroonian nationals currently residing in the U.S. who cannot safely return due to the extreme violence perpetrated by government forces and armed separatists, and a rise in attacks led by Boko Haram, will be able to remain and work in the United States until conditions in their home country improve.
The designation adds Cameroon for the first time to a growing list of countries such as Sudan, Haiti and Ukraine to which Mayorkas has used his executive authority to prevent immigrants from being deported. DHS estimated Friday that approximately 11,700 Cameroonians will be eligible to apply for the protection.
The designation takes effect when the notice is published in the Federal Register, and applicants must pay a fee and clear background checks.
The temporary status offers a measure of stability for Cameroonians who have been in limbo for years, but it is far from the permanent legal status many hoped for under the Biden administration.
President Biden has sent a bill to Congress that would create a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, including Cameroonians, in the United States, but the measure has gained little traction in Congress amid frustration over a record-breaking influx of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border this year.
The Trump administration had attempted to sharply curtail the use of temporary protected status, complaining that it is often extended long after the initial emergency has passed. Salvadorans, the largest group with TPS, have had the status since 2001.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 230 national organizations, called for the “immediate designation of TPS for Cameroon in February. It cited a report by Human Rights Watch, which found that government security forces and others subjected deported immigrants and their family members to beatings, extortion and rape from 2019 to 2021.
Source : The Washington Post