A group of US lawmakers is looking to gain support before sending a letter to President Joe Biden and his homeland security secretary calling on them to protect Lebanese visitors and students from being deported.
With the situation quickly deteriorating in Lebanon, citizens have been looking to flee with the hopes of finding better opportunities elsewhere.
The two members of Congress that have taken the lead on the initiative meant to protect Lebanese tourists and students are Rashida Tlaib and Debbie Dinell, both from the state of Michigan.
Both Democrats, Tlaib and Dinell, are exerting efforts to gain more signatures on a letter to be sent to Biden and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. They will ask to add Lebanon to the list for Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
A severe shortage of medications and electricity is adding to the myriad of problems in Lebanon, which is still trying to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and the Port of Beirut blast that killed hundreds and wounded thousands more.
In addition, the country’s ruling elite continues to bicker over political and sectarian shares in a new government. Lebanon has been without a government for over a year.
UNICEF recently warned of water scarcity, while the World Bank and other international organizations have warned against the levels of poverty reached in the country.
Citizens of Myanmar, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen are currently eligible for TPS.
Al Jazeera English first reported the initiative by the congresswomen.
“Given the magnitude of this crisis, we urge you to exercise your executive discretion to provide protection to Lebanese nationals who are currently in the US, by designating Lebanon for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), and to permit those affected to find safe haven in our country,” the letter to be sent to Biden and Mayorkas reads.
This is not the first time Tlaib and other lawmakers urge a US president to add Lebanon to the list. After the Beirut port blast – one of the most powerful non-nuclear explosions in recent history – over 80 lawmakers called on then-President Donald Trump to designate Lebanon and halt deportations of Lebanese people from the US.
At the time, Tlaib said there were between 10,000 and 24,000 Lebanese people at risk of being deported.
Under the Biden administration, Lebanon has fallen down the list of foreign policy priorities.
But State Department officials are growing increasingly concerned over the possibility of an all-out collapse and security fallout due to the dire situation.