US President Joe Biden Thursday extended a program that protects Hong Kong residents in the US from deportation. The program, called the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), was originally set to end on February 5. The extension means the DED will now remain in effect for certain Hong Kong residents in the US for an additional two years.Biden said he chose to extend the DED in response to China’s continued crackdown on the rights and freedoms of Hongkongers. Biden specifically called out China’s “continued…assault on Hong Kong’s autonomy, undermining its remaining democratic processes and institutions, imposing limits on academic freedom, and cracking down on freedom of the press.”The decision to extend the program covers all Hong Kong residents who have been present in the US since August 5, 2021. However, there are exceptions to coverage under the program. Hong Kong residents in the US are not covered if they voluntarily returned to Hong Kong, have not continuously resided in the US, have been convicted of a felony or two misdemeanors, are subject to extradition, or have otherwise been determined by US officials to be unsafe to remain.According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the US president is able to extend the DED at his discretion. Biden first extended the DED program to Hong Kong residents in the US on August 5, 2021, which deferred the deportation of Hong Kong residents for 18 months. At the time, Biden said the US wanted to extend protection to Hong Kong residents from China’s imposition of the National Security Law (NSL). He also said, “The United States is committed to a foreign policy that unites our democratic values with our foreign policy goals, which is centered on the defense of democracy and the promotion of human rights around the world.”China imposed the NSL on Hong Kong in June 2020. The law has since drawn international condemnation as Chinese officials have used it to prosecute lawmakers, activists and members of the press. Human Rights Watch called NSL-defined crimes “overly broad and arbitrarily applied.” According to the Biden administration, Chinese officials have arrested at least 150 opposition politicians, activists and protestors. As it stands now, over 1,200 political prisoners from Hong Kong are imprisoned—a fraction of the over 10,000 arrested in connection with anti-government protests from the past few years.USCIS noted that the DED is not a specific immigration status. That said, those covered by the DED are now able to remain within the US through February 5, 2025. Biden also directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to provide Hong Kong residents in the US covered by the DED with employment authorization and to suspend student visa requirements, as appropriate.

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