The United States government will extend immigration relief measures to foreign nationals from three West African countries hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak, according to a press release out recently. The virus, which has claimed the lives of at least 1,200 people, has catapulted Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leona into a crisis of grim outcomes. There is no licensed vaccine and the mortality rate can be up to 90 percent.
The measures would allow nationals from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leona currently in the United States to stay and ensure that they do not fall out of legal status. An official who spoke on background told ThinkProgress that individuals won’t be subject to deportation if they can “successfully change or extend their nonimmigrant status, or take advantage of one of the other immigration relief measures.” The six immigration measures that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will take include extending the nonimmigrant status; extending certain grants of parole made by USCIS; expediting adjudication and approval, like for F-1 visa holders who are experiencing economic hardship; expediting the processing of immigrant petitions for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens; expediting the adjudication of work authorization applications; and considering fee waivers associated with USCIS benefit applications.
The immigration relief does not confer permanent legal status and can be revoked. And the relief falls short of Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a Congress-created program in 1990, wherein individuals affected by situations in their countries of origin could receive provisional protection against deportation and are granted work authorization in the United States.
The United States previously extended humanitarian relief to nationals unable to return to their countries due to precarious political, economic, or environmental circumstances. Immigration officials extended immigration relief measures to Filipino Typhoon Haiyan victims in November 2013 and again to victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. In one instance, a lawful permanent U.S. resident to Haiti died of cholera just nine days after the U.S. deported him back to Haiti during the height of a cholera epidemic in 2011.