Reported in New York Times
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Friday granted temporary immigration status to Syrians in the United States, sparing them from having to return home, in a new sign that Washington believes security conditions in Syria are going from bad to worse.
Under the measure, Syrians already in the United States will be eligible for temporary protected status, which had previously been given to citizens of seven other countries who could not return home because of violent conflicts or natural disasters.
In a statement, Ms. Napolitano said Syrians "would face serious threats to their personal safety" if they were forced to go back.
Department of Homeland Security officials estimated that 2,500 to 3,000 Syrians in the United States would be eligible for the status. Most are in the United States legally, officials said. Based on the history of citizens of other countries designated for temporary protection, once the status is granted, officials are generally reluctant to cancel it.
Ms. Napolitano said Syrians would have to pass criminal and national security background checks to gain approval. "This is not a blanket waiver," a department official said.
Syria is one of the countries of the Middle East whose citizens receive heightened scrutiny when they travel to the United States.
The department will publish guidelines for Syrians early next week. Typically, the temporary status lasts for 18 months before it must be renewed.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported last week that about 30,000 people had fled the expanding civil warfare in Syria to neighboring Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.
Other countries whose citizens have received temporary protected status are El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and most recently Haiti, after they were devastated by earthquakes or hurricanes.
Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan are also designated for the status. The designation of Nicaraguans and Hondurans dates to 1999, but the status has been regularly renewed.
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