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The United States must end discrimination in immigration, asylum

by Tanesha Peeples
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There’s a double-standard in the application of United States asylum laws in which nationality and race seem to determine who receives aid. It needs to be called out.

The United States wants to be the big brother that runs to save its defenseless siblings from the bully on the playground. It’s a noble but sometimes overbearing gesture of diplomacy and democracy. But, we cannot continue to pick and choose who we want to protect and who can be thrown to the wolves.

Some months back, most of the country was outraged by images of United States border patrol agents appearing to whip Haitian refugees at the Mexico/Texas border.  

The 2021 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise incited violence and chaos throughout the country from militant groups seeking to claim power. Already plagued with poverty, famine, violence and devastated by natural disasters, more Haitians began fleeing and seeking asylum in other countries–including the United States. 

Upon arrival, Haitians were denied entry and rounded up by border agents. It’s reported that there are currently over 3,000 migrants currently stuck in encampments in Mexico and more than 25,000 have been deported back to Haiti in the past year. 

Ultimately, the Department of Homeland Security made the decision not to investigate the claims and, like many instances of injustice, the outrage dissipated. 

Immigration, asylum more difficult for some than others

While all of this was happening, the United States was also withdrawing our service troops from Afghanistan, leading to the violent rise of the Taliban once again. As a result, Afghan residents were flown to America with more than 68,000 of them resettled in the country through an effort called Operation Allies Welcome.

In these two instances the Afghan refugees were welcome but the Haitians weren’t–both groups were trying to escape violence.

Why is this relevant now? Because the same thing is happening with Ukrainians attempting to flee the violence of a war-torn country. 

Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Poland has accommodated more than 150,000 displaced Ukrainians. The United States has promised sanctuary for up to 100,000 refugees with 2,000 currently at the Mexico/United States border. So when looking at how they and the Afghan refugees are treated compared to Haitians seeking asylum, the statement “allies welcome” doesn’t seem to apply to everyone.

According to the American Immigration Council, asylum is a protection granted to foreign nationals already in the United States or arriving at the border who meet the international law definition of a “refugee.” The United Nations 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol define a refugee as a person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country, and cannot obtain protection in that country, due to past persecution or a well-founded fear of being persecuted in the future “on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

Treat all refugees the same

I was watching a docu-series on Netflix called Immigration Nation that chronicles the everyday lives of people who have either migrated to the United States or work in the immigration system.

The whole series was difficult to watch but one story was really heartbreaking. It was that of a grandmother who was raising her teenage granddaughter in Mexico. Members of the local cartel were harassing the family, wanting to rape and use the young girl as a sex worker. In refusing to comply, the family’s lives were threatened, causing the granddaughter and grandmother to escape to the United States. 

The grandmother went through all of the necessary legal procedures to apply for asylum. While the granddaughter – whose mother was already living in the country –  was released to her mother’s custody, the grandmother was detained in a Texas facility for two years and eventually deported back to Mexico.

This is another example of how inconsistencies and discrimination in policy contradict America’s asylum laws.

Our country has undoubtedly had a controversial and politically divisive history with creating and adhering to policies around immigration and asylum. And I will not pretend that it’s not a tricky subject to navigate, especially in these times of economic instability and political discourse. But whether it be for individuals or large groups of people, we have to be fair across the board in administering the law, not biased and discriminatory based on race and nationality.

2 comments

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