WASHINGTON: A growing number of US lawmakers are urging the Biden administration to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Pakistani nationals currently residing in the US due to this year’s unprecedented floods.
Implementing TPS would allow Pakistani nationals to remain in the US.
Two democratic senators — Diane Feinstein of California and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York — initiated the move late last month by drafting a letter to US President Joe Biden, urging him to grant the TPS status.
Since then, other lawmakers have also backed the move. Those who have signed the letter are: Senators Patty Murray, Dick Durbin, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Mark Warner, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Chris Van Hollen, Bob Casey, and Tina Smith.
Almost all of them are senior senators and some also head powerful Senate committees.
In a statement issued with the letter, the senators argued that this year’s floods and rains have left one-third of Pakistan underwater and affected approximately 33 million people. They also pointed out that the ongoing crisis has left many regions uninhabitable and unsafe and also caused an estimated damage of $10 billion.
Another major threat, they wrote, was the spread of waterborne illnesses, including diarrhoea, malaria, acute respiratory infections, skin and eye infections, and typhoid.
“Granting TPS to Pakistani nationals in need is a small but consequential step that the United States can take to immediately reduce the human suffering caused by this natural disaster and would reaffirm our stance as a global leader committed to humanitarian relief efforts and protections,” the senators wrote.
“Should Pakistan officially request TPS designation given the current conditions the country is facing, we urge the Biden administration to prioritise such a request while continuing to monitor ongoing developments and deliberate on the best way to aid the Pakistani community.”
The move is supported by several humanitarian groups such as the National Immigration Forum, Asian American Federation, the Climate Justice Collaborative at the National Partnership for New Americans, Communities United for Status and Protection and South Asian Americans Leading Together.
“Given the severity of this crisis, the United States must ensure that Pakistani nationals present in the United States are not forced to return to conditions that could imperil their lives,” the senators wrote in the letter.
They argued the current conditions in Pakistan represented an ongoing environmental disaster – one of the statutory bases for TPS designation.
The letter stated that tens of thousands had already been stricken by diarrhoea, malaria, acute respiratory infections, skin and eye infections, typhoid, and other health issues resulting from contamination of the water supply.
“While we applaud your Administration’s decision to provide a much needed $30m in humanitarian assistance and dispatch a USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team, further action is needed to mitigate the harmful effects of this crisis,” the letter stated.
They argued that forcing Pakistanis to return to a country experiencing what UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called a relentless impact of ‘epochal’ levels of rain and flooding would be a grievous obstruction to relief efforts.
It would also risk fueling further displacement, destabilising the region, and undermining key US national security interests, they added.
They argued that the use and implementation of TPS as a humanitarian tool would provide necessary relief to individuals that are unable to return to their country due to the extraordinary environmental and public health conditions.
“Designating Pakistan for TPS would also contribute to your Administration’s multi-pronged disaster response,” they wrote, adding that it would decrease the strain on Pakistani infrastructure and provide a safe haven for those who cannot return to their homes or whose homes have been destroyed.
Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2022