Civil Rights Organizations Submit FOIA on Federal Government’s Alarming Sudan and Syria TPS Determinations

Washington, DC – In light of the Trump administration’s decision, against the advice of experts, to nearly dismantle the entire Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program, Muslim Advocates and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) filed two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, urging the administration to release information regarding the termination of TPS for Sudan and the failure to redesignate Syria for TPS, despite the continued instability within both countries.

According to Sirine Shebaya, senior staff attorney for Muslim Advocates, “The administration is using every means at its disposal to shutter our borders and expel immigrants and refugees from our country, no matter the circumstances. Despite violent and dangerous country conditions, it has chosen to deny the protection of TPS to thousands of individuals from these countries, despite the clear humanitarian need, our nation’s laws, and our international obligations. The American people deserve the full facts as to why the administration terminated TPS for Sudan and failed to redesignate Syria, despite the well-documented need for the program to continue.”  

According to Yolanda Rondon, ADC staff attorney, “It is clear that this administration is willing to endanger the lives of women and children to pursue an anti-immigrant political agenda. Our immigration policy should be grounded in principles that protect vulnerable communities. We cannot send vulnerable communities back to perpetual violence, famine, and humanitarian crisis. Despite knowing that it is in the United States’ national security interests to redesignate Temporary Protected Status for Syria and Sudan, the administration chose to ignore the facts. The administration chose to undermine the legal protections in place to protect these vulnerable communities. We must hold our government accountable, we must demand answers.”

As the Syria FOIA states, “In the months since Secretary Nielsen’s announcement, conditions in Syria have continued to actively deteriorate—marked alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians, which prompted military action from the United States, France, and the United Kingdom in April 2018. The precise number of Syrian nationals who will be ineligible for TPS as a result of Secretary Nielsen’s extension-only decision is uncertain. However, each prior redesignation has seen a substantial increase in the number of Syrian nationals seeking and obtaining TPS—from approximately 2,750 in 2012 to approximately 7,000 today. As such, and in light of the continued deterioration of conditions inside Syria, there is likely to be a large number of Syrian nationals who intended to seek protection upon Syria’s redesignation for TPS, but who are now barred from doing so.”

The Sudan TPS FOIA request highlights the challenging conditions that still exist in that country, noting, “In September 2017, a coalition of nearly two dozen human rights groups addressed a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council that called attention to the fact that, despite the existence of a unilateral ceasefire in Sudan, ‘indiscriminate attacks have continued against civilians in violation of international humanitarian law.’ In October 2017, a group of 121 faith-based, legal, nonprofit, academic, and other organizations issued a letter to Acting Secretary Duke stating that the ‘continued armed conflict’ in Sudan makes it ‘inconceivable that Sudan no longer meets the conditions for TPS designation.’ Numerous additional community- and faith-based groups condemned the notice of termination, calling it ‘reprehensible,’ ‘cruel and inhumane,’ and ‘disconnected from the reality on the ground.’”

Muslim Advocates is a national legal advocacy and educational organization that works on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths.

ADC is the only national Arab American civil rights organization committed to defending the rights of people of Arab descent and promoting their rich cultural heritage.