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Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Friday, November 10, 2023

Faith-based groups call to stop deportations to the Democratic Republic of the Congo

A group of 131 faith-based organizations from around the country are calling on the Biden administration to grant deportation protections to about 2,000 nationals of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) amid widespread violence and disease there. The organizations, which include representatives of national, state and local groups of a diverse array of religions and denominations, signed a letter asking President Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas to designate the Democratic Republic of the Congo under Temporary Protected Status (TPS). “Through advocacy, many faith-based organizations emphasize the gospel teaching, ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me,’ identifying the needs, embracing humanity, and protecting the rights of immigrants,” they wrote. “Our faith-based organizations and leaders strongly believe that the DRC clearly meets the statutory requirements for a TPS designation — which would extend much needed grace to nationals from the DRC currently living in our communities and worshiping in our congregations.” Under TPS, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can designate a country as too dangerous to safely repatriate its nationals from the United States, allowing them to live and work here. TPS designations are made for a maximum of 18 months — the period requested for the DRC by the faith groups — but can be renewed at the discretion of the DHS secretary. Amid a flurry of international crises and increased migration from multiple regions of the globe, advocates in the United States have increasingly called on the Biden administration to rely on TPS to provide humanitarian protections. TPS protections apply only to nationals of a designated country who are already in the U.S., but administration officials and immigration restrictionists have argued they can serve as a magnet for more nationals of designated countries to come to the United States. Still, the program exists to prevent the U.S. government from returning people to likely or certain harm — a condition the faith-based groups say is met by the DRC. The DRC, a former Belgian colony once known as Zaire, has been the poster child for flawed colonization and decolonization in Central Africa, and conditions have worsened recently. “The DRC has faced alarming levels of armed conflict for decades, with disturbing levels of violence leading to killings, sexual violence, and mass displacement over the past year,” the groups wrote. The violence — especially prevalent in the North Kivu province, invaded by the March 23 Movement, a group supported by the government of neighboring Rwanda, as well as in the Mai-Ndombe and eastern Ituri provinces — has led to the internal displacement of more than 6.9 million people. The conflicts have also fueled food insecurity and disease. “Ongoing conflict has led to extraordinary and temporary conditions, with cholera, food insecurity, and water shortages,” reads the letter. Though conditions in the DRC seemingly match the statutory requirements for TPS, it’s unclear whether the Biden administration will use that tool to protect DRC nationals. The administration has used TPS sweepingly, most prominently with extensions and redesignations for Venezuela and Haiti, granting access to protections to more than half a million people. But advocates have had to push aggressively for those designations, with the administration weighing political, diplomatic and humanitarian consequences of granting protections to foreign nationals. While some countries welcome TPS designations as relief valves, U.S. recognition that a country is unsafe for repatriations can have a destabilizing effect. The administration has so far ignored calls to grant TPS to Mauritania, for example, another African country with a relatively small emigrant population in the United States. Though advocates have cited the ongoing practice of slavery in Mauritania as a reason to protect the country’s roughly 8,000 nationals in the United States, the Biden administration last week conducted a deportation flight to the North African nation. Geopolitics played a role in that decision: Mauritania is the only country in the Sahel with a democratically elected government amid a wave of coups in the region. A TPS designation for the DRC could also affect ongoing U.S. diplomatic efforts. On Monday, Blinken had calls with DRC President FĂ©lix Tshisekedi and Rwandan President Paul Kagame in an effort to defuse tensions in North Kivu. But the faith leaders wrote that a TPS designation for the DRC would comport to U.S. national interests. Though DRC nationals have led refugee admissions to the United States for years, the DRC is the only country among the top five refugee senders that isn’t designated for TPS. According to the faith groups, that’s an explicit U.S. government recognition that humanitarian conditions in the DRC merit extra protections. “Last but not least, we firmly believe that a TPS designation brings our moral values in alignment with our laws. Across our diverse faith traditions, we are called by our sacred texts to the practices of welcoming the sojourner and acting in solidarity with the vulnerable,” they wrote. “Not deporting people to harm at this juncture should be a moral imperative.” For more information, visit us at https://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/.

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