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Conflict in the Middle East - How should Immigration Authorities Respond? By Danielle Beach-Oswald

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MiddleEast 


Although Qaddafi's regime may have fallen, the fate of the mysterious Libyan leader remains uncertain as rebel leaders continue their search for the 69 year old former Libyan president. Qaddafi has shown that he is unwilling to go down without a struggle and taunted the Libyan opposition in a radio message stating that he was going to purify the Libyan capital of Tripoli of rebel forces. As Libya makes this transition after over 40 years of Qaddafi in power, many are fearful of the potential for instability as the Libyan opposition is neither unified or under a central command.


 


Despite the conflict that rages in Libya, Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad has pledged to remain steadfast in his opposition to Syrian democratic protests. Although President Obama and other world leaders called on the Syrian President to step down last week, President Assad stated that he is "not worried" about the increasingly powerful opposition. An estimated 2,000 Syrians have died since the start of the uprising in March, and media reports remain unverified as the Syrian government has expelled most foreign media outlets.


 


It is now time for Immigration Authorities to try to lay a cohesive policy towards Syrian and Libyan nationals given the political instability that impacts nationals of both countries. In 2010, USCIS admitted 8,904 Syrian citizens as nonimmigrants. Additionally, 41 Syrians were either granted asylum by the USCIS Asylum Office or defensively by the EOIR. 4,956 Libyan citizens were admitted as nonimmigrants. Although 11 Libyans received affirmative asylum through USCIS in 2010, in the past 10 years, no Libyans have received defensive asylum through the EOIR.  For these statistics, please see DHS Yearbook of Immigration Statistics.


 


Although INA 244 allows for the Secretary of Homeland Security to designate certain countries for Temporary Protected Status if requiring the aliens to return to their home countries would pose a serious threat to their safety, it's time for Syrian and Libyan nationals residing in the United States to receive such a benefit. The Obama Administration has spoken in favor of democratic revolutions in Libya and Syria and yet Libyans and Syrians have yet to receive any TPS benefits. Those that fall out of status are threatened with the possibility of facing severe hardship upon their return to Syria or Libya because of the continuing on-going political conflicts. Although many may be fearful of National Security concerns from the government of Syria's inclusion on the Department of State's State Sponsor of Terror list, Sudanese citizens were granted TPS in 2004 in spite of their government's inclusion on the DOS State Sponsor of Terror list.


 


This administration may support the foreign policy objectives of democratization of the opposition movements in Syria and Libya, but it must also realize the humanitarian concerns of its people. If forced to return to Syria or Libya, Syrians and Libyans would face life threatening dangerous consequences. It is therefore time for TPS to be granted until there is peace and stability in both Arab countries.



 

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