For a few hours Saturday morning, the Troy Public Library became Syrian immigration base camp. Some two dozen Syrian nationals came out to a makeshift legal clinic held there. Their visas are about to expire or already have, and the federal government’s offering a special extension due to the crisis in their country.
But as pro-bono lawyers explained to one family after another, Syrians who fled escalating violence in the last three months aren’t eligible; they’ve already missed the program’s crucial window.
That window ended March 29, when the Obama administration declared Syrians in the United States could receive Temporary Protected Status, or TPS. That lets Syrians stay here even after their visas expire.
A group will hold a town hall meeting and legal clinic in the Detroit area on Saturday designed to provide assistance to Syrians looking to temporarily stay in the United States beyond the expiration of their visas.
UFS is a pro-democracy nonprofit organization based in Flint.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in March said Syrians will get temporary protected status because they'd face "serious threats to their personal safety" if they were to return to Syria.
Under the terms of the notice, Syrian nationals who have continuously resided in the United States since March 29 of this year can apply for the status.
Serene Katranji-Zeni is a TPS Coordinator who works with United for a Free Syria.
She says the clinic is the second of its kind in Michigan, and she anticipates helping those eligible complete the time-consuming task of filling out necessary paperwork.
Although she can't say to how many Syrians in Michigan could qualify for the status, she says her office has fielded several requests for help, though many are not eligible.
"The major issue we're running into is that many more people have come into the country since [the March deadline] who want the status, but they don't qualify," she said.
According to the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services website, the temporary protected status for Syrians is designated through September of next year. USCIS currently lists seven other countries on its list for foreigners in the United States who may qualify for temporary protected status.
Two Michigan Congressmen are urging President Obama to renew—and strengthen—sanctions against the Syrian government. Livonia Republican Thaddeus McCotter and Detroit Democrat Hansen Clarke say they both support renewing targeted sanctions that lapse next month. Both Congressmen also support strengthening those measures to include freezing Syrian officials’ U.S. assets, and prohibiting business with American companies. Both say the sanctions should also be extended President Bashar Al-Assad’s, and other top official’s, families. Clarke says if the U.S.