Donald Trump’s administration this week will decide whether to allow 6,900 Syrians to continue being protected from deportation – or force them to return to a country ravaged by starvation, airstrikes, barrel bombs and chemical weapon attacks.
These Syrians have temporary protected status (TPS), which allows people to stay and work in the US because of dangerous conditions in their home country. The US government warned this month that no place in Syria is safe from violence, but humanitarian groups are concerned the administration’s anti-immigrant policies – specifically towards people from Muslim-majority countries – suggest it will not renew TPS.
Three days before the 30 January deadline to decide, the lives of people like Michael Shakur, a 25-year-old who fled Aleppo in October 2014, hang in the balance.
Shakur traveled to the US legally in January 2015 and eventually qualified for TPS. He is alone in Brooklyn, where he has difficulty finding work because potential employers know his TPS could expire. He has applied for asylum, but the processing system is backlogged.
Despite the challenges, Shakur said he is grateful “every second” for TPS. “This is a chance at life, a chance to escape the pointless misery that was in Syria,” Shakur told the Guardian.
He said life was impossible in Syria when he left.
“It was almost like being in a terrible car accident, but all the time,” Shakur said. “You get out of your house house not knowing if you’re coming back – bombs, mortar shells, no electricity, no running water – just a brutal situation to live in.”
Last week, the secretary of state Rex Tillerson warned that Bashar al-Assad’s regime continues to attack Syrians. “The catastrophic state of affairs is directly related to the continued lack of security and legitimate governance in Syria itself,” Tillerson said.
Humanitarian and Syrian advocacy groups have met with the administration to discuss the need for TPS, but are not confident the homeland security department will renew the program.
The Trump administration has already cancelled TPS for four other countries in the past four months.
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