U.S. extends protected status for Somali nationals

Somali nationals living in the U.S. under temporary protected status are eligible to remain in the country for an additional 18 months.

The U.S. government is extending the status, known as TPS, until March of 2011, because of the violence that is still raging in Somalia.

John Keller, executive director of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, said even though the extension affects only about 250 people in the U.S., it still sends an important message to the local Somali community.

"It is an acknowledgement by the U.S. government that the conditions in Somalia are too unstable to send people back," Keller said. "This is very welcome news to the Somali community. And even to those who aren't dependent on TPS, it sends a broader signal that the U.S. understands the precariousness of what's going on over there."

Most Somalis in the U.S. arrived here with refugee status, a more permanent status than TPS.

"For those who fall through the cracks, TPS is a very important remedy," Keller said.

Recipients of TPS are allowed to receive authorization for work, but the status does not lead to permanent residency.

In March, the U.S. extended the temporary status for nearly 4,000 Liberians living in the country.

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