By Sunny Robinson
War creates immigrants. In many ways, that is really all that needs to be said. If we – the people of the world – are to be able to remain in their own countries, and prosper there, and the United States especially, has to stop making, arming, and fostering war. Until we do, migrants and refugees deserve, and have a right to, asylum in or at the expense and facilitation of the country that caused their displacement.
This right is true and legitimate for Haitians, Cameroonians, Syrians, Yemenis, Ethiopians, Eritreans, and Central Americans, to name but a few, as it is for Ukrainians and Afghans. The displaced people of Ukraine are getting special treatment as they arrive at US airports as well as at the US-Mexico border. The problem is not the special treatment Ukrainians are getting. The problem is they are the only ones receiving such a response. “The way they are being treated is the way everyone should be treated,” declared Erika Pinheiro, of Al Otro Lado, on Democracy Now on April 20th. That includes people arriving from Central America, even though the US sponsored dirty wars there were 40 years ago. The economic and political interference as well as negative environmental impact in these countries has never let up. The right to asylum also applies to people from Haiti, where the U.S. has repeatedly failed to follow through on assistance promised; and contributed, if not outright facilitated, to the removal of popularly elected progressive leaders.
The US is a very rich country. If we spent less on war and weapons we would have more to deploy to assist our own population as well as to offer genuine and long term humanitarian assistance to those fleeing violence and war. We ought to do so especially considering that the US caused or greatly contributed to the problems creating migrants.
The current key issues to address are ending of Title 42 – “the Trump-era pandemic restrictions that prevent people from coming to the U.S. on public health safety grounds”* – and assuring that trained, prepared, and sufficient staff are readily available to assist claimants. Title 42 was used to exclude people seeking asylum. It did so in a way that highly targeted people from Central America, the Caribbean, and Africa. Ukrainians were exempt from Title 42* – at least up to April 25, 2022 when Title 42 may begin being used to also slow the processing of Ukrainians.
Generally, asylum claims are granted based on individual, proven claims of fleeing violence or persecution, whereas more blanket claims, such as from war or environmental disasters are addressed through TPS (Temporary Protected Status.) But even Ukrainians are limited in their application for TPS by having to demonstrate they were in the United States before April 11, 2022, unless the Dept. of Homeland Security changes that date.
The long term need remains a pathway for citizenship for the more than 10 million undocumented persons currently in the US, a measure that just isn’t in the cards at the moment, especially not with Republicans. Such a pathway should include those with TPS and youth in DACA (Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, or “Dreamers”). Increasingly, however, even some relatively forward thinking Democrats are expressing concerns about the numbers of asylum seekers, especially the southern border, if Title 42 is ended. This concern may well stem more from their own re-election anxieties than on the merits of the issue. Those recently expressing concerns include people like Raphael Warnock (GA), Val Demmings (FL), Mark Kelly (AZ), Maggie Hassan(NH) – all facing stiff reelection challenges.
The justice seeking public must demand that Title 42 be ended and real assistance be provided to those arriving at US borders. They are exercising their internationally recognized legal right to file a claim for entry. If the southern border can process 10,000 Ukrainian applications in a few weeks, and as many as 1,000 per day, why have they not been able to process the 25,000 other requests that arrived and have been waiting for months at the southern border?* Why does Customs and Border protection (CBP) usually say they can’t process more than 30 persons a day?*
The work in Massachusetts for immigration justice also continues. After another year of extraordinary effort The Safe Communities Act, currently stalled in the Public Safety Committee, and the so-called Driving Families Forward safe driving bill, which passed in the Mass. House, but is now stalled in the Senate, both seem to be slipping away as delay tactics have kept the bills from moving forward despite strong community support. Join us also in seeking the swift passage of these measures.
To slow the number of immigrant individuals and families seeking entry to the US we must stop making war and damaging the environment, and instead provide justice to the millions of displaced persons all over the world seeking safety and a decent future. We invite all who share these goals to join us in MAPA’s Latin America/Caribbean Working Group, which meets the third Wednesday of every month, as we work to rectify these and other issues.
Sunny Robinson is an active member of the MAPA Latin America and Caribbean Working Group, who has been involved with human rights and justice efforts for decades, much of which focused on Central America and especially Guatemala.