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U.S. immigration assistance for Hong Kong residents a good first step

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Becka Bowyer

On Thursday, President Joe Biden’s administration issued a memorandum allowing certain residents of Hong Kong to temporarily remain in the United States. 

Stephen Yale-Loehr

Professor of Immigration Law

Stephen Yale-Loehr, professor of immigration law at Cornell Law School and author of a leading 21-volume immigration law series, says this is a good first step, but more may need to be done.

Yale-Loehr says:

“Today’s White House announcement grants a work permit and a temporary reprieve from deportation for up to 18 months for Hong Kong residents who are currently in the United States. President Biden justified taking this action because of the ‘significant erosion’ of rights and freedoms in Hong Kong by the People’s Republic of China.

“This administrative action, called deferred enforced departure, differs from temporary protected status, which Congress created in 1990 to grant temporary protection for citizens of certain countries adversely affected by civil war or natural disasters.

“The United States did something similar in 1989, after the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing. President George H.W. Bush granted work permits and a temporary reprieve from deportation to Chinese students in the United States who feared returning to China. But he couldn’t grant permanent relief; only Congress can do that. Congress followed up that temporary administrative action by passing a law in 1992 to allow Chinese students and others in the United States at the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre to apply for a green card. If the human rights situation in Hong Kong worsens, Congress may need to do that here as well.”

If you’d like to connect with Professor Yale-Loehr about this development, please contact him directly at 607-379-9707 or swy1@cornell.edu.

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