The Biden Administration Should Not Return Congolese People to Danger – Designating DRC for TPS Will Save Lives and Keep Families Together
By designating DRC for TPS, the Biden Administration can ensure that Congolese nationals living in the United States are not deported to a country where they will face terrible violence and even death. If deported to the DRC, Congolese people would not only likely be caught in ongoing fighting, but would also risk life-threatening conditions when attempting to flee to neighboring countries. Recent reports make clear that people who are returned to the DRC may be arbitrarily detained, extorted, or face accusations of illegal political activity or alleged criminal activity while abroad.
The U.S. Department of State has issued its most serious warnings against travel to the DRC due to ongoing civil unrest, and specifically armed conflict, urging American citizens to avoid travel to the eastern, war-torn regions. Other countries have issued similar warnings to their citizens, and the UN has categorized the situation in the country as an emergency. The DRC is included in a recent report from U.S. intelligence agencies which details conflicts that pose challenges to U.S. security interests, demonstrating the severity of the conflict at hand which continues to force people to flee their homes. In the 2022 fiscal year, the DRC topped the list of the five countries of origin with the highest number of refugees resettled to the United States. Of these five countries – the DRC, Syria, Sudan, Burma, and Ukraine – the DRC is the only country not designated for Temporary Protected Status.
Congress created TPS in 1990 to provide protection from deportation and work authorization to individuals from designated countries that face unsafe conditions in their home countries due to armed conflict, natural disasters, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. The program was created to provide a form of humanitarian relief in situations exactly like those currently taking place in the DRC – to prevent individuals from having to return to countries where they face life-threatening armed conflict or other disasters. As a result, human rights advocates have called on the Biden Administration to designate TPS for the DRC, and Members of Congress have repeatedly spoken out about the ongoing violence, dire humanitarian crises, and large-scale displacement.
Providing TPS protections to individuals from the DRC would also empower them to better contribute to their communities and the broader U.S. economy. FWD.us research indicates that the 2,000 individuals from the DRC who are potentially TPS-eligible have, on average, lived in the U.S. for 17 years, contribute $30 million to the economy annually, and have a workforce participation rate of 93%, providing essential services at a time of worker shortages and high inflation. TPS potentially-eligible individuals from the DRC also live with 6,000 U.S. citizens. Designating TPS for the DRC would keep thousands of American families together.
To date, the Biden Administration has successfully taken steps to extend TPS and DED protections for thousands of individuals from countries devastated by natural disaster, war, and other humanitarian and security crises. They should expand on these successes and designate the Democratic Republic of the Congo for TPS. Doing so would be in line with the Administration’s goals of realizing a more humane, safe, and orderly immigration system, while keeping people safe and families together