In the wake of Hurricane Irma, Donald Trump is offering asylum to British Virgin Islanders. The announcement was made on Monday that the U.S. government would grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to several people who had come to the United States from the British Virgin Islands after the storm washed away their entire lives.
According to White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, that this was “only thing” the Trump administration “could do humanly.”
The new floods over the weekend displaced thousands of people and the only thing we could do humanly is to welcome them and grant them a TPS.
The National Hurricane Center reports that at least 19 people were killed by the historic hurricane and with flooding in the Virgin Islands getting worse and the situation still considered “life-threatening,” the death toll is expected to rise.
The TPS program allows people from countries that have been torn apart by war or natural disasters to legally live and work in the United States. Obama granted TPS status to thousands of Haitians in 2010 following a devastating earthquake. Approximately 58,000 Haitians are still in the U.S. under the federal program, but the Trump administration has announced that their TPS status will expire on January 22.
Now that Trump has signed the TPS order, Virgin Islanders who are already in the U.S. and those who come here from this point on will be safe from deportation.
Officials from the British Virgin Islands and its citizens have all described the news that the U.S. government has granted them asylum as “welcomed.” At one point, displaced citizens of the Virgin Islands were reportedly celebrating the news in the streets.
With dozens already dead or missing, there are currently multiple tropical storms headed to the area and they still have the potential to become full-fledged hurricanes. The TPS order signed by Trump could help prevent the loss of even more lives. Trump is planning to visit three of the Virgin Islands, including St. Croix, which was spared by Irma for the most part. Areas of St. Thomas and St. Paul, on the other hand, were completely devastated by the hurricane’s wrath.
The move is somewhat surprising, considering the fact that the Trump administration has been so staunchly anti-immigration. There is bound to be many American’s questioning why he would cancel an Executive Order so that American raised young people will be deported, some to war zones, while giving asylum to these Virgin Islanders. Although it is certainly a welcome change for the U.S. to be offering asylum to those in their time of need rather than trying to build walls and institute travel bans.
Featured image via Gage Skidmore/Flickr