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Status Extension Urged for Sudanese, South Sudanese Nationals in US

FILE - Homeland Security Department headquarters in northwest Washington.
FILE - Homeland Security Department headquarters in northwest Washington.

Activists are asking the Department of Homeland Security to extend Temporary Protected Status for over 1,000 Sudanese and South Sudanese nationals living in the United States.

By September 3, DHS is expected to decide whether to extend, redesignate or terminate the program for the two countries.

The current period ends November 2 for 49 South Sudanese and 1,039 Sudanese TPS beneficiaries.

Patrice Lawrence of UndocuBlack Network, an advocacy group for undocumented black immigrants, wants an extension.

'Stuck in this status'

"If the administration decides to not extend TPS for some of these people that have been here for decades, decades under this, there is no way for them to be able to get a green card or to get citizenship, so they are stuck in this status until something else happens," Lawrence said.

Because of an ongoing conflict between the two countries, South Sudan was first designated for TPS in October 2011 after it gained independence from Sudan. Sudan's designation was granted in October 1997.

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, individuals can be granted a temporary immigration status if their country is designated for TPS.

Sharon Scheidhauer, a public affairs officer at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said in an email: "At least 60 days prior to the current expiration date, the acting secretary or secretary of homeland security will review conditions in these countries and determine whether an extension, redesignation or termination of Sudan's and South Sudan's TPS designations is warranted."

So far, no announcements have been made public.

If it is terminated, Lawrence said, beneficiaries will be forced to make an impossible decision, even as conflict in both countries continues. There are questions about whether they'll be able to find work and provide for their families.

It's like being between "a rock and a hard place. Where do you go? What do you do? ... All your family is here and you have lost so many things. What do you do? It is an impossible dilemma," Lawrence said.

Once granted TPS, an individual cannot be detained by the Department of Homeland Security on the basis of his or her immigration status in the United States, according to USCIS.

TPS also allows beneficiaries to legally work in the United States.

Shorter extension for Haiti

In May, Haiti was granted a six-month extension, a break from the usual 18-month extension.

Speaking near the White House at a joint rally for TPS and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA — a program that protects
eligible immigrant youth who came to the United States when they were children from deportation — Greisa Maritnez Rosas said undocumented immigrants like herself fear the government could take away programs that allow them to make a living in the U.S.

"Moving forward, I will always be unafraid," Rosas said. "But I think it's important to know that we are ready to continue to fight and ready to continue to put our faces and our bodies on the line to protect our democracy."

Becky Belcore, who works for the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium, said TPS and DACA are programs that should be more comprehensive so immigrants do not live under the constant threat of being deported.

"We're going to continue to fight. And so we will continue to advocate for both of those programs, that they should be restored, but we are also going to be looking for legislative solutions that are more permanent," Belcore said.