|Congresswoman Debbie Dingell organized a meeting in Dearborn’s south-end.|
DEARBORN — As conditions continue to worsen in Yemen, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D- Dearborn) has led a front in metro Detroit, along with local leaders and government officials, to address growing concerns from the Yemeni American community.
On Wednesday, October 14, Dingell held an information session to help Yemeni nationals apply for temporary protected status (TPS) through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The forum comes on the heels of The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) announcement of the designation of Yemen for TPS. The move allows Yemeni residents who are temporarily residing in the U.S. to extend their stay without facing deportation issues.
The protected status is expected to assist hundreds of Yemeni nationals who had been temporarily visiting the U.S. prior to September 3.
The town hall meeting was packed with residents from the Southend community. Fliers were distributed throughout at local mosques and businesses to bring awareness to the event.
Those at the event included Michael Klinger, field office director of the USCIS Detroit; Frank Castria, community relations officer of the USCIS Detroit; Daniel Cavanaugh, senior immigration services officer of the USCIS Detroit; Nabih Ayad, director of the Arab American Civil Rights League (ACRL) and Ali Baleed Almaklani, executive director of the Yemeni American Benevolent Association (YABA).
Dingell urged those in attendance to communicate with local leaders and government officials on how to properly fill out the forms, as well as to spread the word to the community about the application process, which comes with a deadline of March 1, 2017.
“It is critical that those who may be eligible for TPS apply,” Dingell said. “This designation is critical for Yemeni nationals visiting this country whose return home during the ongoing violent conflict would put them at personal risk.”
A standard TPS application comes with a $515 application fee. All applicants must be fingerprinted and photographed as part of the application process. It also grants applicants employment authorization and grants residents authorization to travel as a benefit under the TPS.
Temporary residents who are going through financial struggles are able to apply for a request of waiver of fees.
Applicants are urged to seek legal counsel and complete the application process as thoroughly as possible so that it is processed in a timely manner.
Residents who have one felony or two misdemeanor convictions are not eligible for TPS status. Students who are here on an F-1 visa can also apply for TPS.
While those in attendance engaged in back and forth dialogue in regards to the application process, many residents were on site to get answers about family and friends who are still stuck in the war-torn country.
“Ninety percent of the people are here because there are problems with their families back home,” one concerned resident told government officials at the town hall.
Ayad told residents that this particular town hall meeting wasn’t to discuss those issues, but community leaders would like to work with government officials to address those concerns.
Ayad and other immigration attorneys held information sessions at the local mosques in previous months to look into residents’ inquiries regarding their families in Yemen, as well as those that needed assistance or legal counseling with their immigration application.
The ACRL also has immigration attorneys available for legal counsel every Wednesday from 3 to 5 p.m. at its Dearborn office.
Dingell assured residents that the town hall meeting would be one of many. She told residents that she wants to work as a liaison between the government and local leaders to address the community’s needs.
“The government is going to come back and we will meet in the next week to figure out how to organize something to answer many of your questions,” Dingell said. “I’m out there fighting. I need friends to help me fight so that we can get others to understand. Let’s do more of these forums and lets work with all of the organizations to help improve and address the issues.”
Dingell’s town hall meeting was the latest in a string of initiatives aimed at addressing the turmoil in Yemen. Earlier on Wednesday, Dingell and 10 other members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama urging greater efforts to avoid civilian casualties in Yemen and achieve a diplomatic solution to the conflict.
Those who signed the letter include Representatives Keith Ellison (D- MN.), Ted Lieu (D- CA.), Barbara Lee (D- CA.), Mark Pocan (D- WI), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Maxine Waters (D-CA), David Cicilline (D- RI), James McGovern (D- MA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), John Conyers (D- Detroit), Bobby Rush (D-IL) and John Lewis (D-GA).
“Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has acknowledged the United States is providing the Saudi-led coalition with intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and logistics information, as well as resupply of equipment and munitions,” the Representatives wrote. “In order to protect innocent lives and reduce the potential for backlash against U.S. interests, we urge your administration to work with our Saudi partners to limit civilian casualties to the fullest extent possible.”
The letter comes days after an airstrike conducted by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition struck a wedding reception in the village of Sanban, killing 23 Yemeni civilians. The week prior, a deadlier wedding attack occurred in the village of Wahijan, which left 131 people dead.
The latest figures claim that more than 2,100 civilians, including at least 400 children, have been killed in the conflict, with the vast majority of civilian deaths and injuries attributed to attacks by the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthi rebels.
The conflict, which erupted more than six months ago, has left Yemen in dire condition. More than 1.4 million people have been displaced as a result of the conflict, with many fleeing to Europe. Thousands continue to flee the country week after week.
“Yemen after five months looks like Syria after five years,” said Peter Maurer of the International Committee of the Red Cross, following a recent trip to Yemen and comparing its condition to another crisis occurring in the Middle East.
According to the United Nations World Food Program, an estimated 12.9 million people are considered food insecure and six million are severely food insecure, while more than 1.2 million children are suffering from moderate acute malnutrition and half a million are severely malnourished.