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Mayorkas extends Yemen’s temporary legal status as country battles Iran-backed militants: ‘Extreme risk’

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U.S. officials say Yemeni nationals will be offered temporary protected status (TPS) for another 18 months in a move that a former acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director is calling an “extreme risk for this country’s security and safety.” 

The announcement on Monday by the Department of Homeland Security – which means that Yemeni nationals living in the U.S. will be further protected from deportation and can apply for work permits – comes as Iran-backed Houthi rebels continue to destabilize the Middle Eastern country.  

“Yemen is a special interest alien country. We got to be careful of who we are allowing into the country because they have terrorist ties,” Tom Homan, a former acting director of ICE, told Fox News Digital. “We have already shown our current vetting is not as sufficient to keep us out of harm’s way, because most people with terrorist ties, terrorists in this world – you can’t find them in any database. 

“We don’t know who most terrorists [are], so I think it’s an extreme risk for this country’s security and safety,” he added. 

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Houthi supporters rally in Yemen

Houthi supporters attend a rally in Sanaa, Yemen, on March 8. (AP/Osamah Abdulrahman)

“Special interest aliens” are people from countries identified by the U.S. government as having conditions that promote or protect terrorism or potentially pose some sort of national security threat to the U.S. 

The extension will allow an estimated 1,700 Yemeni nationals living in the U.S. to “file initial applications for TPS,” while around another 2,300 current beneficiaries will be able to “retain TPS through March 3, 2026, if they continue to meet TPS eligibility requirements,” according to Homeland Security. 

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Lebanon Israel Foreign Fighters

Houthi fighters march during a rally of support for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and against the U.S. strikes on Yemen outside Sanaa, Yemen, in January. (AP Photo)

“Yemen has been in a state of protracted conflict for the past decade, severely limiting civilians’ access to water, food, and medical care, pushing the country to the brink of economic collapse, and preventing Yemeni nationals living abroad from safely returning home,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. 

“The steps the Department of Homeland Security has taken today will allow certain Yemenis currently residing in the United States to remain and work here until conditions in their home country improve,” he added. 

In January of this year, the U.S. State Department designated the Houthis as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist group.” 

mayorkas eagle pass

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas says “Yemen has been in a state of protracted conflict for the past decade.” (John Moore/Getty Images)

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“Since November, the Houthis have launched unprecedented attacks against international maritime vessels in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, as well as military forces positioned in the area to defend the safety and security of commercial shipping,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at the time. “These attacks against international shipping have endangered mariners, disrupted the free flow of commerce, and interfered with navigational rights and freedoms.” 

Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report. 

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