Nearly 500 Somalis who escaped terrorism and drought will be allowed to remain in the US until at least March 2020, the US homeland security department announced on Thursday.
Concerns had been raised that the administration would cancel the temporary protected status (TPS) program for Somalis because of Trump’s anti-immigrant policies and the decision to end TPS status for more than 428,250 others. But the DHS granted them permission to stay temporarily, owing to the “ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary conditions” in Somalia.
This decision is a relief for TPS holders such as Yasir, who fled Somalia after being kidnapped and tortured by the al-Qaida-affiliated extremist group al-Shabaab. “I’m scared of going back to Somalia and being killed by al-Shabaab,” Yasir told the Guardian.
Yasir, 29, said that in 2008, he was walking in Mogadishu when two men came up behind him and hit him. He was knocked unconscious. He woke up in a room with the two men, who he said identified themselves as members of al-Shabaab and tried to coerce him into joining their group.
“They told me if I don’t work with them, they will kill me and they know where I live,” Yasir said.
He went into hiding while he tried to find a way out, occasionally dressing in women’s clothes and covering his face in disguise.
An aunt eventually gave him money so he could pay someone to get him out. He doesn’t know how long it took him to get to the US, which he did by traveling through several countries before crossing the border in 2009.
“I was happy to be alive,” Yasir said. “I was happy to be somewhere where justice means something.”
He lived in the US undocumented until 2012, when Temporary Protected Status (TPS) was redesignated for Somalia. TPS protects foreign nationals already in the US when civil unrest, violence or natural disasters erupt in their home country.
TPS can either be redesignated, which allows a new group of people to apply for it; renewed, with allows people who already have it to stay longer; or terminated, which typically gives people more than a year to find a way to stay in the US or leave.
The homeland security department renewed, but did not redesignate, TPS for Somalis on Thursday. The homeland security department said in a statement it made this decision because the “ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions that support Somalia’s current designation for TPS continue to exist”.
With TPS, instead of living in the shadows, Yasir was able to work, get a driver’s license and open a bank account.
He is now married to a US citizen and has a seven-year-old American son. He said he doesn’t know what has happened to his family and friends in Somalia, and whether they are dead or alive.
“I’ve seen countries losing TPS and I’ve been scared I’m going to lose mine and be deported back home,” Yasir said.
The Trump administration has unleashed a torrent of measures to slow immigration and remove people from the US, including terminating TPS for six of the 10 countries covered by it when he took office.
This has left more than 428,250 people from countries including Nicaragua, El Salvador and Sudan forced to find a way to stay in the US or return to their home country as early as December of this year.
TPS has been extended for more than 8,100 people from South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
The president insulted the largest Somali American community, in Minnesota, two days before being elected president. “Everybody’s reading about the disaster taking place in Minnesota,” Trump said at a rally in November 2017.
Despite the escalating conflict with al-Shabaab, and the terrorist group’s targeting of people who return to the country, the US has dramatically increased deportations there since late 2016. In fiscal year 2016, 198 Somalis were deported, rising to 521 in 2017.
And in December, more than 90 Somali men and women were held shackled on an airplane for nearly 48 hours during a failed attempt to deport them from the US that went as far Dakar, Senegal, before returning to the US.
There have been bipartisan efforts in the House and Senate to encourage the homeland security department to redesignate and extend TPS for Somalia. Senators Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, and Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, sent a letter on Monday to the homeland security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, and the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, urging them to extend the protection. The senators wrote: “Conditions in Somalia remain dire, and armed conflict continues to be a threat to the Somali people.”
- Yasir’s name has been changed to protect his identity
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
Trump May Pardon Military Men Accused Or Convicted Of War Crimes
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump has asked for files to be prepared on pardoning several U.S. military members accused of or convicted of war crimes, including one slated to stand trial on charges of shooting unarmed civilians while in Iraq, the New York Times reported on Saturday.
Trump requested the immediate preparation of paperwork needed, indicating he is considering pardons for the men around Memorial Day on May 27, the report said, citing two unnamed U.S. officials. Assembling pardon files normally takes months, but the Justice Department has pressed for the work to be completed before that holiday weekend, one of the officials said.
One request is for Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher of the Navy SEALs, scheduled to stand trial in coming weeks on charges of shooting unarmed civilians and killing an enemy captive with a knife while deployed in Iraq.
Also believed to be included is the case of Major Mathew Golsteyn, an Army Green Beret accused of killing an unarmed Afghan in 2010, the Times said.
Reuters could not immediately identify a way to contact Gallagher and Golsteyn.
The newspaper reported that the cases of other men are believed to be included in the paperwork, without naming them.
The Department of Justice declined to comment on the report, while the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Legal experts cited in the report said that pardoning several accused and convicted war criminals, including some who have not yet gone to trial, has not been done in recent history, and some worried such pardons could erode the legitimacy of military law.
Trump Administration Considers Flying Migrants Across Country to Relieve Border Crowding
The Trump administration may begin flying asylum-seeking families at the southern U.S. border across the country to have their initial claims processed, a Customs and Border Protection official said Friday.
For months, immigration authorities have been shuttling newly arrested migrants—mostly families and children from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador—between border stations as facilities have become overwhelmed. Migrants have routinely been bussed hundreds of miles from the border in Southern California or El Paso, Texas, to as far away as Tucson, Ariz., before authorities process and then release them to aid groups.
Now, plans are being laid for the air transportation of parents and children out of overcrowded stations to other locations in the U.S., including northern and coastal states with Border Patrol offices that have capacity, if the flow of families doesn’t diminish, the CBP official said.
“This is an emergency. The entire system is overwhelmed,” the official said. “We are just trying to safely get them out of our facilities as quickly as possible.”
Border Patrol officials have flown nearly 1,000 migrants from overcrowded processing centers and stations in the Rio Grande Valley to nearby Del Rio, Texas, and San Diego since last Friday, another U.S. official said Friday.
The private, contracted flights have cost between $21,000 and $65,000 each and can carry a maximum of 135 people, that official said.
Mark Bogen, the mayor of Broward County in South Florida said Friday that he was told by local law-enforcement to expect as many as 135 migrants to be flown to the area and released by the Border Patrol after their asylum claims are processed.
Mr. Bogen said Broward County doesn’t have the resources to manage such an influx and that its shelters are already crowded with homeless local residents.
“We don’t know if these are seniors or kids,” he said of the potential migrant arrivals. “We were provided one thing: the number 135.”
The CBP official said no migrants were currently being flown to Florida. “We are in preliminary planning stages,” the official said.
The Trump administration contends that the record number of adults with children presenting themselves for asylum has brought the border infrastructure to a breaking point. CBP said on Friday that the agency had averaged 4,500 apprehensions per day over the preceding week. Some 248,000 migrants travelling as families illegally entered the U.S. between October, the start of the federal fiscal year, and April—more than in any prior full year.
Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, have blamed President Trump for exacerbating the flood of families to the southern border by cutting aid to Central America and threatening to close the border altogether.
The White House is seeking $4.5 billion in emergency border funding from Congress along with changes to asylum laws that the Trump administration says would make it easier to detain families longer, process applications more quickly, and deter more people from making the journey to the U.S.
Democratic lawmakers have refused to fund asylum policies they consider inhumane, but indicated late Thursday that they would consider funding some of the administration’s requests, making a counteroffer that excludes funding for detention beds, a Congressional aide said.
(Reporting by Wall Street Journal)
Trump Administration Rejects Subpoena For Tax Returns
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is missing another deadline to produce President Donald Trump’s tax returns. A top House Democrat says he expects to take the administration to court as early as next week over the matter.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin) says in a letter Friday that he will not comply with the subpoena from the House Ways and Means Committee for six years of Trump’s tax returns because the request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose.”
Mnuchin’s rejection of the subpoena had been expected. Earlier Friday, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal had said, “We will likely proceed to court as quickly as next week.”
Democrats are seeking Trump’s tax returns under a 1924 law that directs the IRS to furnish such information to the chairs of Congress’ tax-writing committees.
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