Debating Temporary Protected Status
Negotiating treaties, attending bilateral meetings, and lobbying nation’s interests are the regular business of ambassadors when they are stationed in oversees. Beyond that, diplomats’ roles and responsibilities are immensely varied, particularly when a nation is in the emergency situation. In Washington, when an ambassador arrives from a nation, it is the very first business that s/he initially approaches to the Secretary of State and stays touch base with Department of State. Since the ambassadors’ nomination is a too lengthy process, the newly appointed Nepalese ambassador to the U.S. Arjun Karki took office in Washington after several months he was nominated. The ambassador was long time been waited at Washington from embassy staff and diaspora community as well. When he arrived at Washington he received tremendous support from U.S. officials, embassy staff and Nepali Diasporas. Not all ambassadors from all countries are immediately contacted to the high level U.S. officials like the Secretary of State and the President when they arrive in Washington. Particularly for the ambassador who represents a small country from a Third World wait months or a year to present his/ her letter of credence to the President. Whether this is Karki’s luck or unique diplomatic ability, we should wait to judge this; however, he was successful to speedily approaching these high level officials and lobbying the nation’s hands on interests.
Reaching out to high level officials
Since Karki is transitioning from track-two (civil society) diplomacy to track-one (government), how he would perform this challenging duty is still questionable; yet, his recently demonstrated dynamic leadership has allowed us to predict that his diplomatic journey may be thriving. Behind the Karki’s success meeting with the Secretary of State and the President has two reasons. Firstly, this phenomenon demonstrates the ambassador’s strong diplomatic leadership on handling business within a short period of time in any circumstances. As learned from his source, he quickly coordinated with the U.S. embassy in Kathmandu for his incoming programs, which helped him scheduled all meeting before arriving to Washington. Secondly, Nepal was already in attention of U.S. particularly after the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake. The U.S. officials here in Washington wanted to learn from official representative about the support Nepal may require. The horrific situation of Nepal helped Karki to be a top priority diplomat and Karki effectively used this opportunity to gain maximum supports from Washington. As a result, the State Department has been further committed to support Nepal with anything. Beyond the relief and rehabilitation support, Washington has begun other steps to Nepalese populations for example granting Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to people who have lived in the U.S. for years.
What and what not TPS is?
The U.S. Secretary of State closely works with the Secretary of Homeland Security when a matter relates with the immigration. The U.S. is the country that accommodates largest immigrant populations in the world; thus, it is often recognized as “nation of immigrants.” Therefore, when anything terribly happens in the world, the U.S. must pay attention to each incident across the globe because these immigrants are either the naturalized citizens of the U.S. or are in a pathway to citizenship or they are here as a short term workers or students. Because of this reality, it is the obligation of U.S. government to reach out to the immigration populations each time. To address the immigration issues of the population who have not reached the pathway to citizenship and are affected from such terrible earthquake, the U.S. has a policy to address the needs of these immigrant populations. Problem includes immigrants, who have failed to maintain their visa status and are subject to deportation, or students who have agreed to pay their college fees from their family sources previously but have affected family members from the incidents, TPS is an initiative that may address their problems. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) sources says the Secretary of Homeland Security may designate a foreign country for TPS due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately. In this given situation, the USCIS may grant TPS to eligible nationals of certain countries, who are already in the U.S. Under the recommendation of Secretary of State, the U.S. Homeland Secretary may designate a country for TPS due to the following temporary conditions in the country that includes; a) ongoing armed conflict (such as civil war); b) an environmental disaster (such as earthquake or hurricane), or an epidemic; c) other extraordinary and temporary conditions, the USCIS says.
Diaspora community here in the U.S. had already begun to lobby to have Nepal granted the TPS to address the problem of estimated 25,000 Nepali populations. Ambassador Karki was first introduced in this regard from diaspora leaders. Since then, he became promptly vigilant to this problem and requested to the Secretary of State, John Kerry to grant TPS to Nepalese living in the U.S. under the aforementioned second condition. This request does not articulate any warning message to any tourist who may wish to travel Nepal. Rather, it articulates that Nepal experienced a terrible natural disaster that any country could have and now it needs a support for its citizens living internationally, and it was the job of the ambassador to address the need of his fellow citizens who are living in the U.S. Nevertheless, TPS does not keep individuals pathway to citizenship.
Skepticisms on TPS
Once the ambassador requested TPS to the Secretary Kerry, it has posed several questions to its potential beneficiaries. For example, how would this actually benefit to them? Also, this TPS has brought skepticisms particularly in media that TPS may discourage people who might have planned to travel to Nepal. Under this skepticism the U.S. government may release travel alerts to its citizen to not travel and this alerts may have implications to other countries as well. This proposed TPS is the result of natural disaster not the result of armed conflict or civil war. We all know natural disaster is onetime event and every country experience some form of disasters every now and then. After the last two devastating earthquakes of Haiti 2010 and Japan 2011, no travel alerts were released stopping travelers to visit affected countries. Notably, President Bill Clinton reached to Haiti with relief packages during the first week of the earthquake while TPS was granted.
Benefits of TPS
The TPS has no negative impacts on our tourism. Rather, it encourages citizens to visit and support Nepal and who were not able to visit Nepal because of their visa status and they may be eligible to travel once it is granted. During the TPS designated period, individuals who are TPS beneficiaries are not removable from the U.S. and they may obtain an employment authorization document and legally work in the U.S. and support their family, pay collage fees, lunch humanitarian activities without a fear, and the U.S. government cannot detain them on the basis of his or her immigration status in the U.S. Additionally, individuals may be granted travel authorization to see their families back in Nepal and support with money and humanitarian assistance. It contributes to have a stronger tie between Nepal-US relationships.
Dr. Paneru teaches public administration and international relations at Strayer University, Virginia, the U.S.
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