West Africans granted temporary immigration protection in the US at the peak of the deadly Ebola virus outbreak may have to return to their countries next May, despite worries that their homelands may still be vulnerable to the virus.
In 2014, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia were given Temporary Protected Status (TPS) by the Department of Homeland Security. This allowed people from those nations already in the US to stay for up to 18 months and to get work permits. The TPS has since been extended twice – most recently last month, when a final reprieve was given by US officials to around 5900 visitors from those nations.
Advocates for the West African immigrants and the immigrants themselves are urging the US government to extend the TPS for a further 18 months because of fears that another outbreak of the Ebola virus could flare up at any time. The health care infrastructures of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone were devastated by the outbreak. The World Health Organization put the death toll at over 11,000, many of whom were health care workers.
The executive director of New York advocacy organization, African Communities Together, Amaha Kassa, says that there are instances where countries were declared free of Ebola, only for more cases to be discovered. Many West Africans living in the US send their paychecks home to help repair their nation’s infrastructure. This rebuilding process could be damaged if they were forced to return home.