Hundreds of West African immigrants in Minnesota, United States, are likely to lose their immigration status when their protected temporary status, which was issued in 2014 during the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, expires.
Close to 5,000 African immigrants were given special legal status to live and work in the United States until the Ebola epidemic was contained, according to VOA News.
But since these African countries have been declared Ebola-free, immigrants with temporary visas are now expected to either obtain legal status or return home immediately.
Officials from various organizations that deal with immigration matters in Minnesota are criticizing this termination, arguing that it is still not safe for the affected immigrants to return to their home countries.
Abdullah Kiatamba, the executive director of African Immigrant Services in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, termed the termination “premature,” adding that Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea are still recovering from the Ebola outbreak.
“The employment system, economic system, social system, health have all collapsed. Their coming to the U.S. was a very important humanitarian step, and I think the reason for their coming has totally not been eliminated,” Kiatamba said.
Others argue that sending these immigrants back home will make an already bad situation worse.
“It’s great these countries have been declared Ebola-free, but the toll that fighting Ebola took on the countries, you have to take that into effect, too,” said John Keller, the executive director of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota.
This termination also comes at a time when new cases of Ebola have started to emerge in Central Africa, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, where at least three people have died since the first case was reported last week.
Although U.S. officials are yet to release the actual number of West African immigrants with temporary immigration status, Kiatamba estimates that close to 500 people will be affected by the termination.
Ebola is a hemorrhagic fever of humans and other primates caused by the Ebola virus, which is normally spread through human-to-human transmission. This deadly virus can also be transmitted to people from wild animals.