Letter to Joseph R. Biden, President of the United States - Following Devastating Flooding In Pakistan, Durbin Joins Colleagues In Calling On President Biden To Designate Pakistan For Temporary Protected Status


Dear President Biden:

We write to respectfully urge your Administration to considerdesignating the Islamic Republic of Pakistan for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Unprecedented flooding in Pakistan is currently impacting approximately 33 million people and has killed more than 1,500 people, including 536 children. Given the severity of this crisis, the United States must ensure that Pakistani nationals present in the United States are not forced to return to conditions that could imperil their lives.

Current conditions in Pakistan represent an ongoing environmental disaster -- one of the statutory bases for TPS designation. Extreme flooding has left most regions of the country uninhabitable and unsafe. According to data from the European Space Agency, approximately one-third of Pakistan is underwater. The Indus River is exceeding its capacity, which has led officials to evacuate entire villages in hopes of mitigating further disaster. Half of Pakistan's municipal districts have declared a "state of calamity" and the country's National Disaster Management Authority estimates that one in seven Pakistanis has been affected. According to Pakistan's finance minister, the damage is likely to exceed $10 billion, which is equivalent to 4 percent of the country's annual gross domestic product.

Even as Pakistanis are reeling from the physical destruction caused by the flooding, they are also facing the spread of waterborne illness that this environmental crisis has exacerbated. Tens of thousands have been stricken by diarrhea, malaria, acute respiratory infections (ARI), skin and eye infections, typhoid, and other health issues resulting from contamination of the water supply. While we applaud your Administration's decision to provide a much needed $30 million in humanitarian assistance and dispatch a USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team, further action is needed to mitigate the harmful effects of this crisis.

Forcing Pakistanis to return to a country that is experiencing what U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has called a relentless impact of "epochal" levels of rain and flooding would be a grievous obstruction to relief efforts. It would also risk fueling further displacement, destabilizing the region, and undermining key U.S. national security interests.8 The use and implementation of TPS as a humanitarian tool would provide necessary relief to individuals that are unable to return to their country due to the extraordinary environmental and public health conditions.

Additionally, designating Pakistan for TPS would also contribute to your Administration's multi-pronged disaster response. It would decrease the strain on Pakistani infrastructure and provide a safe haven for those who cannot return to their homes or whose homes have been destroyed. Should Pakistan officially request TPS designation given the current conditions that the country is facing, we urge you to prioritize such a request and take it into serious consideration while you continue to monitor ongoing developments and deliberate on the best way to aid the Pakistani community. TPS is a small but consequential step that the United States can take to immediately reduce the human suffering caused by this natural disaster and would reaffirm our stance as a global leader committed to humanitarian relief efforts and protections.

Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to your timely reply.