The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced it will grant temporary protected status to Ethiopians who were in the U.S. as of October 20. Due to the civil war happening in Ethiopia, citizens of the nation are eligible to apply regardless of their visa status or other documentation.

An 18-month stay and the ability to apply for work permits will grant temporary protected status to eligible Ethiopians in the U.S. through an application process. The status also shields immigrants from potential deportation.

The civil war, or Tigray War as it is also known, has been ongoing since 2020 after years of increasing tensions between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)  and the governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea. 

The status grants protection to citizens of countries where conditions are too unsafe for them to return, whether because of natural disaster, armed conflict, or other catastrophes.

woman draped in flag of Ethiopia sitting near a waterfall
Photo Credit: Yohannes Minas

For those not familiar with the current state of affairs, Twitter user @zemensberhe shared a video originally created by on TikTok:

Protection From A War Torn Homeland

According to U.S. officials, an estimated 26,700 Ethiopians will be eligible to apply for the program. The announcement comes as the war between Ethiopian government forces and the Tigrayan minority continues, putting civilians at risk of numerous human rights violations.

“The United States recognizes the ongoing armed conflict and the extraordinary and temporary conditions engulfing Ethiopia, and DHS is committed to providing temporary protection to those in need,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in a statement. “Ethiopian nationals currently residing in the U.S. who cannot safely return due to conflict-related violence and a humanitarian crisis involving severe food shortages, flooding, drought and displacement will be able to remain and work in the United States until conditions in their home country improve.”

Initially reported by the LA Times, about 356,000 people in the U.S. were born in Ethiopia or are of Ethiopian ancestry, according to the Migration Policy Institute’s analysis of U.S. census data.

Requested help from the Biden administration

Politicians and immigrant advocates have called on the Biden administration to extend temporary protected status to Ethiopians as the civil war has intensified.

“Protecting Ethiopians, the second-largest community of Africans in the United States, from return to untenable conditions is a vital statement to Ethiopia and our allies that our nation is restoring its commitment to human rights, globally and at home,” dozens of immigrant advocates and leaders wrote in 2021. “In addition, like many TPS holders, Ethiopians have served as essential workers during the pandemic, contributing to the economy and enriching U.S. communities.”

The U.S. State Department is warning Americans not to travel to the Tigray region “due to armed conflict, civil unrest and crime.”

“Whenever you hear there is a bombing — I hope and pray they didn’t get their home and wait until next time I hear from them. It sometimes takes awhile,” Remhai Menelik of San Francisco said of her relatives in Ethiopia.

Menelik, who runs a nonprofit called Free Tigray, said in a statement:

“Ethiopia is not a place Tigrayans can actually live and survive right now”.

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