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Trump Administration Extends Temporary Protected Status For Yemen Citizens


The Trump administration announced today that it will extend temporary protected status for immigrants from Yemen. The Department of Homeland Security previously said that it would end TPS for people from several other countries around the world, including Haiti and El Salvador. But the administration chose a different course for Yemen, which is embroiled in a brutal civil war. NPR's Joel Rose reports.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: The decision to extend TPS means more than 1,200 Yemenis can continue to live and work in the U.S. legally for at least another 18 months, people like Mohamed al-Amari (ph).


ROSE: Al-Amari works behind the counter at a deli in Manhattan a few blocks from Penn Station.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Lettuce, mayo - light mayo, just a little bit - black pepper. Thank you.

MOHAMED AL-AMARI: You're welcome.

ROSE: Al-Amari says he works 10 hours a day, six days a week to pay his rent in Brooklyn and support his family back home in Yemen.

AL-AMARI: You know, my kids, my wife, my mom, my brothers - I have to, you know, because there's a war over there. There's nobody working there. You know, that's the problem.

ROSE: The civil war in Yemen has killed thousands and brought the country's economy to a standstill, and it's made it dangerous for people like al-Amari to go back. That's why the Department of Homeland Security decided to extend TPS for Yemen. Immigrants with TPS are allowed to live and work legally in the U.S. but only temporarily. The Trump administration is terminating TPS for hundreds of thousands of immigrants from other countries, including Haiti, El Salvador and Sudan. That raised concerns that they would do the same for Yemen. But today, former U.S. officials who've worked there are relieved.

BARBARA BODINE: This is an ongoing humanitarian catastrophe that may have been a factor in their decision.

ROSE: Barbara Bodine is a former ambassador to Yemen under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush. She now directs the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University. Bodine says TPS was originally granted for immigrants from Yemen in 2015 because of the civil war.

BODINE: And in the intervening three years, the situation has only gotten worse. This is not a situation where it's turning the corner in a positive way. It has gone off a cliff in a bad way.

ROSE: The number of Yemenis who already have TPS is not huge - roughly 1,250 according to the Department of Homeland Security. And the administration says it won't accept any new applicants for TPS unless they've been in the country since before 2017. The Yemeni-American community has already been hit hard by the president's immigration policies. The travel ban has made it nearly impossible for Yemenis to bring family members to the U.S. Mohamed al-Amari says his own brother is stuck in Yemen.

AL-AMARI: There's a lot of peoples like that. You know, somebody - they try to bring his kids. Somebody - they take his mom. It's not easy.

ROSE: But al-Amari says at least he knows he can stay in the U.S. through early 2020.

AL-AMARI: Nothing else - we're coming to work. It's a good country. I'd say the country is the best country in the world.

ROSE: If he didn't have TPS, al-Amari says he doesn't know what he would do, but going back to Yemen is not an option. Joel Rose, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joel Rose is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers immigration and breaking news.