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US Lawmakers Urge Protected Status for Mauritanians

FILE - U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in Washington, Jan. 16, 2023.
FILE - U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in Washington, Jan. 16, 2023.

U.S. lawmakers have asked President Joe Biden's administration to designate an 18-month Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforcement Departure (DED) for Mauritians living in the United States due to "extraordinary conditions" in their home country.

Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown and Republican Representative Mike Carey in a letter dated Jan. 18 said "the ongoing human rights violations, including slavery and human trafficking, occurring in Mauritania warrant a designation of either TPS or DED."

"The designation would send a clear message of condemnation and protect those seeking refuge in the United States," the Ohio lawmakers said.

They urged the U.S. president to "consider the circumstances the Mauritanian people are facing and uphold our country’s commitment to the defense of human rights by immediately designating TPS or DED for Mauritanians living in the United States."

TPS has long been used to fill the gaps in asylum and refugee resettlement systems.

"TPS and DED holders contribute around $2.3 billion in federal taxes and $1.3 billion in state and local taxes as well," the lawmakers said.

In the letter, the lawmakers recounted the time when "Black Mauritanians began to flee their country in the late 1980's over a wave of violent repression and forced expulsions, with a small number heading toward the United States."

In 2007, Mauritania became the world’s last country to criminalize slavery, but they said the practice remains widespread despite "recent efforts to combat human trafficking, slavery continues in both rural and urban areas of the country."

The lawmakers noted that "Black Mauritanians also reportedly face significant discrimination, forced displacement, and exclusion from full citizenship rights."

"Currently, there are an estimated 8,000 foreign-born Mauritanians residing in the United States," they said, with more than 3,000 in Ohio.