Rashida Tlaib asks US to allow Lebanese nationals to remain in country because of blast

©Detroit Free Press

Eric Seals/Detroit Free Press/TNS

DETROIT — Led by U.S. House Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., 80 members of Congress sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking that Lebanese nationals living temporarily in the U.S. be allowed to remain because of the recent explosion in Beirut.

The letter asks the Department of Homeland Security to designate Lebanon for Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, or Deferred Enforced Departure, or DED, which allows Lebanese visitors of immigrants in the U.S. on a temporary basis the right to stay since they would be exposed to dangerous conditions in their native land. The U.S. has used such designations after natural disasters and other hazardous conditions in nations such as Haiti, El Salvador and Yemen, among others.

This move would “provide a safe haven to Lebanese nationals in the United States in the wake of the Beirut disaster,” Tlaib said in a statement Thursday.

The Wednesday letter said: “We urge you to welcome to our country individuals and families permanently displaced by this disaster through any and all means at your disposal, including humanitarian parole. The United States has long offered shelter to those seeking refuge from catastrophe. To turn away families in desperate need of refuge goes against everything we as Americans stand for.”

Citing media reports, the letter said the Beirut blast “has killed at least 154 people, wounded approximately 5,000, and has left an estimated 300,000 people homeless. … On top of COVID-19 and the economic crisis, the people of Lebanon are now facing a potential widespread food shortage as well as political and social instability arising from the extensive devastation to the capital.”

Michigan has about 57,000 residents with ancestral roots in Lebanon, according to 2018 Census data. Many Lebanese Americans have held vigils in recent weeks and raised money to help Lebanon recover.

Other members of Congress from Michigan who signed the letter were U.S. House Reps. Debbie Dingell, Brenda Lawrence,Andy Levin and Elissa Slotkin, all Democrats.

The letter has been endorsed by several Arab-American and immigrant groups based in or with chapters in Michigan, including the Arab American Institute , American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Dearborn-based group ACCESS (formerly the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services), Michigan Immigrant Rights Center and Michigan United.

Others who co-led the letter include House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York, and House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from California.

The letter urged the U.S. to act quickly to protect Lebanese nationals: “Given the sheer scale of the crisis, it is imperative that the Administration take immediate steps to exercise its discretion — as a matter of national interest — to allow Lebanese nationals to remain in the United States at this time, by designating Lebanon for TPS or DED.”

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