With the inauguration of President Biden on 20 January 2021, many people were excited to see what a new historically diverse administration could achieve to reverse four years of racism. Biden’s administration and the first year of his presidency promise more pro-immigration legislation and benefits for undocumented people.
Given a commitment to reversing Trump’s decisions through the enactment of 17 executive actions on his first day in office, Biden has instilled hope in a variety of minority groups.
One group, in particular, were Nepali migrants to the US, holding Temporary Protection Status (TPS). The TPS provides the recipients with an opportunity to live and work in the US temporarily, and is granted to people adversely impacted by war or disasters.
Many Nepalis took advantage of this humanitarian program after the 2015 Gorkha, Nepal earthquake and continue to do so. There are currently over 8,950 Nepali TPS holders in the US.
The TPS system had become mired in controversy when President Trump ended the protection for immigrants citing that countries have recovered from the natural disasters or violent conflicts that caused people to flee, putting 300,000 individuals at the risk of losing it. The move was viewed as being an act of cruelty against the immigrants.
The start of his presidency, however, has been testing for Biden, as the US saw a sharp spike in the number of migrants entering at the US Mexico border—many of them minors, unaccompanied by their guardians. The number of entries recorded in January 2021 was more than 5,870, close to double the number in 2020.
The problem has been intact over the years. During the Obama administration, the erstwhile government had proceeded to made living arrangements for unaccompanied migrants. The administration had also received criticism as migrants served time in detention, during which time parents and minors were separated.
When Trump took over, he turned the migrants away at the border, instead of allowing them in and holding them in detention. Biden has promised a better way of doing it.
One promising piece of legislation introduced in the House on March 3rd and recently passed by the House of Representatives on March 18, 2021, was the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021. President Biden spoke about this act as ‘a critical first step in reforming the immigration system’. He said it would provide much-needed relief to TPS holders and young people who went to the US as children.
He also said in his statement that he hopes his administration would continue to work towards ‘an orderly and humane immigration system’ that address the root causes for migration and establishes a path to citizenship for undocumented people.
Under Biden, hope for Nepali migrants in US, Nepali Times
Concerning Nepali TPS holders, the most recent update in December 2020 from the Department of Homeland Security, said that beneficiaries under TPS designations in Nepal would retain their status as long as their status is not revoked on an individual basis. The U .S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will, therefore, extend TPS to Nepali recipients through 4 October 2021.
The provisions would entail for the beneficiaries to have already been re-registered for TPS during their country’s registration periods in 2016 and 2018. If they’re late, they would be expected to file an explanation of why they are filing late.
At the beginning of March, Venezuelans and Burmese were added to the list of TPS protected countries. The list is now 12 countries long, including El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen.
Although these 12 countries have TPS, only six of them have standing due to the court cases that are challenging Trump’s previous restrictions. Along with Nepal, the other countries that share this status are El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua and Sudan.
If The American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 is passed by the Senate, it would provide permanent status for certain immigrants.
The Act calls for either the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or the Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide ‘conditional permanent resident status for 10 years to a qualifying ‘alien who entered the United States as a minor’. The provision, however, is deportable or inadmissible and has deferred enforced departure (DED) status or temporary protected status.
The children of certain classes of non-immigrants are also contingent on other qualifying factors according to the legislation. These include being located in the US since January 2021, passing a background check, and participating or having participated in certain educational programs.
The biggest impact would be that the immigrants, who had TPS, are eligible, or were eligible for Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) status and were to be removed on certain dates. For instance, on 4 October, Nepalis would receive permanent resident status if they met certain requirements and applied for this status within three years of the bill’s approval.
Under this bill, applications for permanent status cannot be used for immigration enforcement. The concerned department would create a grant program for nonprofit organisations such as Adhikaar, that do immigration-related work and a previous restriction on providing undocumented people with higher education benefits will be repealed.
The American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 would help protect many registered as well as undocumented people to stay in the US, especially since many of these people have lived here for most of their lives. Migrants are now eyeing the new administration with a new surge of hope.
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