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Advocates praise extension of temporary legal protections for Somali and Ethiopian immigrants

A group of people march in the middle of a road, holding yellow and red flags as well as handmade protest signs.
Ari Snider
Members of Maine's ethnic Tigrayan community protest against civil war in their native Ethiopia in Oct. 2021. The Department of Homeland Security cited ongoing armed conflict, food shortages, and natural disasters as grounds for granting Temporary Protected Status to Ethiopians living in the US.

The Department of Homeland Security this week announced an extension of Temporary Protected Status for eligible Somali immigrants in the U.S. DHS also redesignated Somalia for TPS, expanding eligibility to an estimated 2,200 Somali immigrants nationwide.

TPS offers protection from deportation to individuals from countries deemed unsafe to return to.

DHS cited conflict, natural disasters, and disease outbreaks in its decision to extend and redesignate Somalia for TPS.

Lisa Parisio, with the Portland-based Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, said that was the right decision.

"And we encourage DHS to continue to use TPS broadly, boldly to protect people in the United States that don't have any other forms of protection from catastrophic conditions that makes safe return impossible," she said.

Parisio said it isn't clear yet how many people in Maine will be affected by the decision. Regardless, she said TPS is a significant and unique legal tool because it accounts for the impacts of climate change on migration.

"It's the only protection that's currently under our law that actually provides for some humanitarian protection based on natural disaster and catastrophe that is caused by climate change," she said.

DHS cited natural disasters, as well as armed conflict, in its extension of TPS for Somalia, and in its decision late last year to begin offering the same protections to eligible Ethiopian immigrants.

The TPS registration period for eligible Ethiopian nationals is currently open. But ILAP cautioned that the TPS registration for Somali nationals has not yet begun.

Parisio said individuals who think they may be eligible for TPS can find more information at ILAP's website.