Arab American community activists are urging the Department of Homeland Security to declare Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Lebanese nationals in the U.S..
It would grant temporary immigration status for people to live and work in the U.S. due to challenges in their home country.
Adam Beddawi, policy manager for the National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC), says more than 12,000 people are impacted by TPS in the United States, including many families in Metro Detroit.
“There are certain people who currently reside in this country… if they were to go back to Lebanon, they would not be able to make ends meet,” Beddawi said. “And in fact, they may even be subject to violent horror.”
As the home of the largest Arab American population per capita in the country, Dearborn also houses one of the biggest concentrations of Lebanese communities.
Beddawi said Lebanese nationals face unique challenges, especially after the pandemic and political crisis in the country. Lebanese citizens are in the fourth year of economic turmoil and lack many basic necessities.
The Beirut explosion of 2020 added fuel to the fire.
Dearborn is home to one of the largest Lebanese communities in the United States.
“The most recent event that I think should have forced action by the Department of Homeland Security went without a response, and the conditions have only worsened over time,” Beddawi said.
In April, Michigan U.S. Reps Rashida Tlaib and Debbie Dingell introduced the Lebanon TPS Act of 2023. If passed, Congress can request the Department of Homeland Security to declare Temporary Protected Status for Lebanese nationals for 18 months.
Representatives Dingell (D- Ann Arbor), Rashida Tlaib (D- Detroit), and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), along with 35 of their House colleagues, sent a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, urging for the designation of Lebanon for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to protect Lebanese nationals in the United States and permit those affected by the ongoing crises in Lebanon to find safe haven in our country.
“Social instability and persistent internal and external shocks continue to challenge the country and contribute to worsening conditions in Lebanon,” the lawmakers write. “The 2019 freedom protests, 2020 Beirut port explosion, 2021 fuel crisis, COVID-19 pandemic, Russian invasion of Ukraine, hyperinflation with dwindling foreign reserve accounts, and increased regional tensions heightening chances of armed conflict have afflicted significant pain on Lebanon, preventing the safe return of Lebanese nationals. The country’s economy is suffering a major collapse and has been described by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as ‘at a dangerous crossroads’ and in desperate need of rapid reform. The World Bank currently ranks Lebanon’s crisis among the top 10 most severe global episodes since the mid-19th century – with 82 percent of the Lebanese population living in multidimensional poverty and 75 percent living in income poverty.”
“So without TPS status, you’re talking about people who are slipping through the cracks in this country — where we have capacity and support systems in place to provide for them in a temporary and even long-term capacity,” Beddawi said.
Beddawi said about 130 community organizations signed a letter and sent it to the DHS urging them to grant TPS for the Lebanese population.
“We’re hoping for now is to have some time to sit down with members of the Biden administration and communicate what we articulated in that letter,” he said.
Beddawi warned that if TPS is not granted, Lebanese nationals in the U.S. will get deported and return to horrible conditions.
Lebanon has been living one of the worst economic crises that a country has lived in the modern era. According to the World Bank, it is likely to rank among the top 10 most severe crises experienced globally since the 1850s.
– Nargis Rahman, WDET, contributed to the story. It has been edited for style.