The Biden administration announced Friday that it is designating Cameroon for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) – meaning that nationals living in the U.S. will be protected from deportation and can apply for work permits.
TPS authority allows the Department of Homeland Security to protect nationals of designated countries living in the U.S. from potential deportation if they are eligible, allows them to apply for work permits and gives them the freedom to travel. Cameroon is designated for an initial 18 months, but such designations are frequently extended.
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TPS is based on three grounds: armed ongoing conflict, environmental disasters or “extraordinary and temporary conditions.” DHS cited the violence between government forces and separatists, as well as a rise in terror attacks by Islamic terror group Boko Haram.
“The United States recognizes the ongoing armed conflict in Cameroon, and we will provide temporary protection to those in need,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.
“Cameroonian nationals currently residing in the U.S. who cannot safely return due to the extreme violence perpetrated by government forces and armed separatists, and a rise in attacks led by Boko Haram, will be able to remain and work in the United States until conditions in their home country improve.”
Nationals must have already been present in the U.S. as of Thursday, and those who enter after that time will not be eligible. The New York Times reported that approximately 40,000 Cameroonians are expected to be eligible.
It is the latest use of the TPS designation by Mayorkas, who recently designated Afghanistan for TPS, and has designated or redesignated Ukraine, Sudan, Haiti and South Sudan. Activists and some Democratic lawmakers had been urging Mayorkas to designate Cameroon. Activists have also called for TPS designations of Ethiopia and Mauritania.
Meredith Owen, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Church World Services, said that the designation will “provide Cameroonians with the lifeline they so desperately need.”
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“While we welcome this much-needed step toward a more equitable immigration system, many more in our communities need this same life-saving protection extended to them,” she said in a statement. “We all have neighbors – whether from the Northern Triangle, sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, or beyond – that wake each morning fearing that this could be the day their families are returned to peril. No one should have to live this way, the administration needs to act in their interests, too.”
While the designation is supposed to be temporary, designations are regularly extended and a pathway to citizenship for anyone in the country on TPS has regularly been floated as part of any amnesty inclusion in various immigration reform packages. Immigration hawks have dubbed TPS “amnesty-lite” and used similar language when criticizing the Biden administration’s move on Friday.
“With Secretary Mayorkas continuing to aggressively designate countries like Cameroon for TPS, it is fair to wonder what illegal alien population won’t receive amnesty-lite by the end of the Biden administration,” RJ Hauman, head of government relations at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) said in a statement. “Will he end up designating every country in the world due to climate change?”
“This is even more offensive considering what is happening down at the border,” Hauman added. “Instead of, say, fully re-implementing ‘Remain in Mexico,’ he’s busy figuring out how to make sure illegal alien populations can remain in America forever.”