WASHINGTON – With violence erupting across the country, resulting in hundreds of civilian deaths and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee in search of safety, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today formally requested that the Biden administration issue a new Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Sudan.
In a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the senators expressed their concern with the worsening humanitarian conditions in Sudan as intense fighting continues across the country despite multiple attempted ceasefires.
“In recent weeks, violence in Sudan has claimed hundreds of lives, injured thousands, forcibly displaced tens of thousands, and terrorized many more,” the senators wrote. “Despite multiple attempted ceasefires between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), intense and indiscriminate fighting continues across the country, including within the densely populated capital of Khartoum, and in the continuously conflict-stricken region of Darfur. Ongoing hostilities have led to the near collapse of the healthcare system, significantly disrupted the flow of humanitarian aid into the country, and in many cases made access to basic resources like food, water, and medication impossible.”
Established by the U.S. Congress through the Immigration Act of 1990, TPS is a temporary, renewable program that provides relief from deportation and access to a work permit for foreign nationals from certain countries who are unable to return safely to their home country due to natural disasters, armed conflicts, or other extraordinary conditions. There are more than 54,000 immigrants from Sudan in the United States as of 2021, according to data, with the highest concentration located in Fairfax County, VA.
The senators continued, “Given the extremely violent clashes, deteriorating conditions, and the posture of the Department of State, it is clear that Sudan meets the standards for TPS. To that end, it is critical that a new designation be issued for Sudan that reflects the ongoing armed conflict and the continued extraordinary and temporary conditions on the ground.”
Last week Sen. Warner expressed his support for the steps the Biden administration has taken to deliver humanitarian assistance to the region and push for an end to the violence through diplomatic efforts. Sen. Kaine, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), has been pushing for the administration to ensure the safety and security of U.S. citizens in Sudan and urging both sides to commit to a permanent ceasefire. Last week, he held an event in Richmond with members of Virginia’s Sudanese American community to hear their perspectives on the conflict and discuss ways he can be helpful. Sens. Warner and Kaine have been longtime supporters of the TPS program for regions facing instability, most recently joining 116 of their colleagues in a letter, led by Sen. Kaine and Rep. Castro, to the Biden administration requesting the redesignation of TPS for El Salvador and Honduras and celebrating the Biden administration’s decision to issue a Temporary Protected Status designation for Cameroon during a period of unrelenting violence.
A copy of the letter can be found here and below.
Dear Secretary Mayorkas and Secretary Blinken:
We urge you to issue a new Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Sudan, as the current armed conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has led to a mass exodus of individuals fleeing violence, scarcity of essential goods, and rapidly deteriorating health services. A new designation would protect current Sudanese TPS holders from returning to Sudan in the midst of this violence and would offer protected status to Sudanese nationals who arrived after March 1, 2022.
In recent weeks, violence in Sudan has claimed hundreds of lives, injured thousands, forcibly displaced tens of thousands, and terrorized many more. Despite multiple attempted ceasefires between the SAF and the RSF, intense and indiscriminate fighting continues across the country, including within the densely populated capital of Khartoum, and in the continuously conflict-stricken region of Darfur. Ongoing hostilities have led to the near collapse of the healthcare system, significantly disrupted the flow of humanitarian aid into the country, and in many cases made access to basic resources like food, water, and medication impossible.
Due to the continued threat of armed conflict, on April 22, 2023, the U.S Department of State issued a Level 4: Do Not Travel advisory and ordered the departure of Embassy employees. This is part of a broader effort by the U.S., in coordination with regional and international partners, to evacuate U.S. nationals from Khartoum and allow for a safe path into neighboring countries. Given the extremely violent clashes, deteriorating conditions, and the posture of the Department of State, it is clear that Sudan meets the standards for TPS. To that end, it is critical that a new designation be issued for Sudan that reflects the ongoing armed conflict and the continued extraordinary and temporary conditions on the ground.
It is important to note that, while the situation is rapidly changing, the threat will not subside immediately once the conflict stops. Lasting damage has been done to Sudan’s telecommunications networks, electrical infrastructure, and transportation systems, including to Khartoum International Airport, making international travel extremely difficult.
Redesignating Sudan’s TPS status would also provide much needed clarity for current Sudanese TPS holders and would offer protection for Sudanese individuals who entered the U.S. more recently. As you know, Sudanese nationals living in the United States can currently apply for TPS under the April 2022 designation, which expires on October 19, 2023. TPS holders under the 2013 designation are facing an uncertain future due to ongoing litigation. The expiration date of TPS documentation under the 2013 designation is contingent on the outcome of the Ramos v. Nielsen case – a lawsuit determining the legality of the Trump Administration’s termination of Sudan’s 2013 designation – which could potentially remove status for TPS holders who have not applied under the 2022 designation.
Additionally, while TPS holders registered under the 2022 designation are exempt from the ongoing litigation, their protection expires in October. Further, there is currently no recourse for Sudanese nationals who have arrived in the U.S. after March 2022. This uncertainty and the continued dangerous circumstances in Sudan have created considerable hardship for TPS recipients and their families, including American-born children.
A new TPS designation for Sudan would protect eligible beneficiaries from the dangers they face if they were removed and would provide protection for newer arrivals. In light of these considerations, we strongly urge you to redesignate TPS for Sudan to ensure that Sudanese nationals already living in the U.S. are not forced to return to a nation facing violence and instability.
Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.