Trump Administration Extends Immigration Protections to Country on Travel Ban List

The Department of Homeland Security announced Thursday that it was extending temporary protected status (TPS) for people in the U.S. from Yemen, which is also one of seven countries on President Donald Trump's travel ban list.

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen extended the immigration protections for 18 months.

"After carefully reviewing conditions in Yemen with interagency partners, Secretary Nielsen determined that the ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions that support Yemen's current designation for TPS continue to exist," a statement said. "Individuals from Yemen with TPS will be eligible to re-register for an extension of their status for 18 months, through March 3, 2020."

The current 18-month protected status was set to expire September 3, meaning the approximately 1,250 Yemeni people in the U.S. who benefit from TPS would face deportation. Those with TPS are eligible to work and travel in the U.S.

Four former ambassadors to Yemen sent a letter to Nielsen and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month asking the administration to extend the protected status.

"Yemen's ongoing armed conflict risks the life and freedom of Yemenis should they be forced to return to the country," the letter said.

Yemen is currently in the midst of a civil war, one that the United Nations has called the "world's worst humanitarian crisis." More than 22 million people—75 percent of the country's population—reportedly need immediate humanitarian aid and protection.

Saudi-led forces in Yemen have been backed by the United States, which has caused senators to question the U.S. military's role in the Middle Eastern conflict.

Oxfam America, a nonprofit humanitarian organization that fights global poverty, told Newsweek that TPS leaves Yemenis in "legal limbo" and they should instead be given permanent residency status and a path to citizenship.

"While the decision provides a temporary respite for over 1,000 Yemenis currently with TPS, it does nothing for other Yemeni citizens in the U.S. who cannot apply for TPS," said Scott Paul, Oxfam America's humanitarian policy leader.

The DHS announcement seems to be in contrast to the Trump administration's controversial travel ban, which lists Yemen as one of seven countries whose people it prevents from traveling to the U.S. The travel ban means immigrant visas from the country have been suspended, and only those who can prove they have a pre-existing relationship with a person or entity in the U.S., a job offer or an offer from a school, can legally come to the U.S. Amnesty International described the ban as "hateful" and a "catastrophe" after it was upheld by a Supreme Court ruling last month.

This article has been updated to include the response from Oxfam America.