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UI student among nearly 7,000 Syrians receiving extended temporary protection status

Temporary protection status is granted to people who come to the U.S. from countries where extraordinary and temporary disasters are taking place.

Monzer Shakally is a native Syrian who lived his teenage years in fear of the country's ongoing civil war dating back to 2011.

"I eventually ended up leaving the country because of how dangerous it was," said Shakally.

He came to Des Moines with a student visa to finish high school, applied for asylum, and eventually was able to receive temporary protection status in the United States. Temporary protection status is granted to people who come to the U.S. from countries where extraordinary and temporary disasters are taking place.

For more than five years, now, Shakally calls Iowa home.

“I enjoy the people the culture, just the way the community is," he said.

A local college student and Syrian who sought asylum in the United States said while the extension for TPS only guarantees him another 18 months in the country, it still puts him at ease.

Now he is getting ready to graduate from the University of Iowa and wants to become a dentist and give back to the Iowa community. However, as the deadline for the U.S. government to either renew or remove temporary protection status for some Syrians approached, Shakally said he and nearly 7,000 refugees who benefit from this protection were not sure if they would have more time in the U.S.

"It's very hard to predict what the administration is going to do," he said.

This week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security extended the TPS program for those who have continuously lived in the U.S. since August 1st, 2016, amidst continuing conflict in Syria.

Some Syrian organizations said this protection was not enough to calm their fears about all Syrians living in the U.S.

A coalition of U.S. organizations for Syrians released a joint statement saying in part, "while we, as Syrian American Organizations, are reassured by the renewal which will allow Syrians with current TPS status to remain inside the country, we are deeply disturbed by the failure of the administration to re-designate TPS."

This means nearly 2,000 Syrians who came after August 2016 are not eligible to obtain TPS and will have to find other ways to extend their stay legally.

Shakally said it is upsetting these people will not protected in the same way as him, but he hopes that by setting a good example as an immigrant, and continuing to advocate for all immigrant communities future legislation will guarantee more rights to more people like him.

"I'm trying to paint a picture of what I look like because I'm tired of someone else painting that picture," he said.

This extended protection is only granted until September 2019. Around that time, DHS will re-visit TPS and decide to continue the extension or end it.


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