Washington – Russia and Ukraine is a high-profile conflict the world is following, particularly since it’s unfolding in real-time. The war between both countries is young but tumultuous; headlines detailing the bombings and casualties have been seen across the world, sparking sympathy in the hearts of most onlookers.
Everywhere you turn, support for Ukraine and its citizens is requested from the American people. On April 21, 2022, President Joe Biden granted a new aid package for Ukraine, totaling 800 million. Support for the war-torn country has not been limited to monetary relief but also extended to immigration policies in the U.S, which have been very partial to Ukrainian immigrants seeking asylum.
The Biden administration recently launched the “Uniting for Ukraine” program to support Ukrainian families. This program enables U.S. citizens to financially sponsor Ukrainian immigrants, giving them humanitarian parole. Immediacy is the key word here. Gone are the visa refugee programs, which ordinarily have immigrant families waiting for several years-long for approval. Permanent status will not be granted, but Ukrainians will be permitted to live and work in the U.S. for at least two years. According to President Joe Biden, the U.S. will host up to 100,000 immigrants. It’s a small dent in comparison to 5 million Ukrainians who have fled their country as a result of the war, but a quite generous and expedient response to a two-month young conflict. This precedent is radically different from the way immigrants from developing countries have been treated in the past.
Many immigrants from other countries are wondering when their relief will come. According to a 2022 report “The threats facing Cameroon are weighing heavily on peace and stability and have serious regional implications” generated by the Institute for Security Studies and the African Union’s Peace and Security Council (PSC), countries like Libya, South Sudan, the Central African Republic Northern Mozambique, Ethiopia, and Cameroon are all currently at war. More specifically, the country of Cameroon has been engaged in a violent civil war for the last five years. Immigrant advocacy groups have only just announced support for the people of Cameroon despite horrific reports from its citizens about secret torture chambers, street beatings, and drownings. For years, people have been desperate to get out.
Many claim that the support immigrants from Cameroon are receiving is only a knee-jerk response to public outrage the U.S. government received after failing to aid an entire country in need of humanitarian assistance. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. “From Cameroon to US-Mexico border: ‘We saw corpses along the way,” the number of Cameroonians applying for asylum in the US has spiked by nearly 140 percent, from less than 600 to over 1,300 between the years 2012 to 2016. Strangely, the number of granted asylum cases has been declining since 2007. Why are so many Cameroonians denied asylum in the U.S., when there is a violent civil war raging in their home country?
Immigration Policies for the Middle East
Arguably, immigration policies may have been unbalanced toward people in the Middle East as well. On the heels of a 20-year-long war, the Taliban in Afghanistan has unfortunately returned to power, bringing back their tyranny, sexist laws, and violent attacks. In January, 40 people in Afghanistan were rounded up and held by the Taliban for reasons unknown to the public. “Afghan women face increasing violence and repression under the Taliban after international spotlight fade.” Of the 40 captured, eight women were reportedly gang-raped by the Taliban. The whereabouts of these women are now unclear.
Prior to the rise of the Taliban, Afghanistan was invaded by the U.S. in 2001 in response to the 911 attacks. During this 20-year time period, around 241,000 civilians were killed. Despite the casualties, U.S. support for immigrants fleeing Afghanistan was very limited during the war “Afghan Immigrants in the United States.”
Following the withdrawal of U.S. forces and the complete destruction of the country, Afghanis are finally getting a variety of support, including temporary protective status (TPS), which permits foreign-born individuals who are unable to return home safely due to conditions or circumstances to legally remain in the U.S. Under TPS the holder is not removable from the U.S. and not detainable by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) based on his or her immigration status. Furthermore, the holder is eligible for an employment authorization document (EAD), permitting them to work if they maintain their TPS status. “Secretary Mayorkas Designates Afghanistan for Temporary Protected Status.”
Why the difference in treatment? Politically, it would be feasible to argue that the U.S. was in a conflict with Afghanistan at the time and could not assist its citizens, even though the U.S. was systematically destroying the demographic area, their homes, schools, churches, and hospitals. However, the war in Afghanistan was against Al-Qaeda, not its innocent citizens. Even now that the war has ended, Afghanis must still go through a process and wait a certain period of time to accept and receive immigration benefits like TPS. Conversely, Ukrainians and other European countries, have promptly been paroled right at the border.
Families Separated at the Border
On 4/20/2022 The New York Times published an article written by Miriam Jordan about Ukrainian children being separated from their caregivers at the U.S. border. “Ukrainian Children and Caregivers Are Being Separated at U.S. Border.” The article detailed the trauma that Ukrainian children feel at being separated from their relatives or guardians after having just escaped with their lives from a war zone. But this is not the first time we’ve seen children being separated from their parents. In 2018, the Trump administration deliberately removed children from migrant families to deter families from crossing the border illegally. Many of these children were sent to government shelters. According to the New York Times, the parents of 445 migrant children from Central America still have not been found. “A court filing says parents of 445 separated migrant children still have not been found.”
The Statue of Liberty in New York’s Ellis Island, gifted by France in 1886, has for many years been a symbol of freedom and democracy. On the statue are words written by famous poet Emma Lazarus in 1883, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” Are these words still relevant in 2022? If so, which tired, which poor, which masses are they relevant to?
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- “The threats facing Cameroon are weighing heavily on peace and stability and have serious regional implications.”
- “From Cameroon to US-Mexico border: ‘We saw corpses along the way”
- “Afghan women face increasing violence and repression under the Taliban after international spotlight fade”
- “Afghan Immigrants in the United States.”
- “Secretary Mayorkas Designates Afghanistan for Temporary Protected Status”
- “Ukrainian Children and Caregivers Are Being Separated at U.S. Border”
- “Cameroon: Amnesty report reveals war crimes in the fight against Boko Haram, including horrific use of torture”
- “A court filing says parents of 445 separated migrant children still have not been found”
- Biden Announces $800 Million in Military Assistance for Ukraine
- Adelola Tinubu from Current Affairs Times interviewed Supervising Attorney Norma Avril from the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) via telephone.