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Protected Status For Myanmar Welcoming News For Iowa's Refugees

Some Iowans from Myanmar or with ties to it have protested the military coup in the country.
Iowa Chin Community
Some Iowans from Myanmar or with ties to it have protested the military coup in the country.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) can now apply to people who originally came from Myanmar and are not U.S. citizens. People applying for the protected status through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have to meet certain criteria, like continuously living in the U.S. since March 11, 2021.

As of now, the protection only lasts for 18 months, May 25, 2021 through Nov. 25, 2022. Applicants have 180 days to submit their registration.

Even though not every Iowan from Myanmar can apply for TPS, the president of the Iowa Chin Community Maungbiak Thawng, said this is welcoming news for the people he serves. Thawng also goes by the name Alex.

“A lot of people may choose to stay here and apply for asylum or refugees instead of going back and risk their lives. So this is a very good program and then I think this will help a lot of people," Thawng said.

Thawng said he personally knows some people who are interested in applying for TPS, but others are still hoping to go back to their home country because they miss their families. The majority of people Thawng has spoken to want to stay in Iowa.

"We are here, settled, and we feel like it is our home. And thanks to the U.S. government to give us the protection here and everything. So my thought is a lot of people may not [be] willing to go back and struggle with the military rules [in Myanmar]," Thawng explained.

According to the Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center (EMBARC) in Iowa, there are more than 10,000 refugees from Myanmar in Iowa. Most of them fled from the ongoing civil war in the country.

Thawng emphasized refugee status in the state is by no means easy. He serves in Des Moines and estimated about 95 percent of his community is not fluent in English, so many still experience daily struggles.

"But we are happy. We are willing to struggle and then adapt to the culture here and then go forward," Thawng said.

TPS is granted for countries that are too dangerous for refugees to return to, this can include military conflict or worsening environmental conditions like a natural disaster. It does not grant people U.S. citizenship, but while obtaining TPS, a refugee cannot be deported.

As of last month, the Congressional Research Service reported Iowa currently has 1,130 people with TPS.

Kassidy was a reporter based in Des Moines