By: Manny Otiko, IVN
For all its problems, the United States is still seen as a destination for people fleeing war and conflict.
The United States follows the 1951 United Nations refugee convention, which requires it to offer shelter to people who are fleeing war zones. But, who gets to be admitted to the United States is a more complicated issue. Sometimes, it has a lot to do with ethnicity.
Ukraine, an eastern European country that used to be part of the old Soviet Union, is currently at war with Russia. The United States supports Ukraine both militarily and politically.
And because of that Ukrainian citizens are given preference at the border. Ukrainian refugees stand an overwhelming chance of being admitted to the United States.
“The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recognizes that the unjustified Russian war of aggression in Ukraine has created a humanitarian crisis,” according to a DHS memo.
However, Russians don’t face the same situation. According to an ABC News story, most Russians who tried to enter the country as refugees were blocked at the Mexican border.
“About three dozen would-be asylum seekers from Russia found themselves blocked from entering the U.S. on Friday while a group of Ukrainians flashed passports and were escorted across the border,” said ABC News.
The border has always been a political flashpoint. And things worsened under former President Donald Trump, who pursued white nationalist policies. White nationalists believe America should remain a majority white country and Trump’s policies reinforced this idea. He ran on a platform promising to rid the country of illegal immigrants and reduce the number of legal immigrants coming to the country, including refugees.
Under Trump’s policies, refugees who were trying to gain admission to the U.S. had to remain in Mexico while their applications were processed. (The Supreme Court recently voted to uphold the Biden administration’s decision to remove Trump’s remain in Mexico policy.)
However, the Trump policy only created more misery on the border as some applicants waited in camps where they were subject to crime and exploitation. While the U.S. government policy has welcomed Ukrainians, because their country is at war, that doesn’t seem to apply to refugees from some African countries which are currently undergoing internal strife.
According to a Bloomberg article, an increasing number of refugees headed to the American border were coming from African countries. Bloomberg stated that Africans are motivated because of worsening ecological conditions caused by climate change. Rising temperatures create problems such as drought and famine, so these “climate refugees” seek safety in more stable countries.
“People are like ‘OK, I can’t live here, I may as well die trying to get somewhere else,’” said Ayaan Adam, chief executive officer of AFC Capital Partners, in a Bloomberg interview. “This is happening now. We are seeing a preview of the movie that will unroll and that will be increasing in intensity.”
In addition, the U. S. government is still deporting Haitian refugees even though the island is wracked by violence and instability. However, the Haitian situation has not yet been declared a war. Many Haitian refugees found temporary homes in Brazil when they fled the 2010 earthquake.
But attacks from hostile forces in Brazil forced some Haitians to head north and seek refuge in America, where they face more problems from border guards.
Luisa Farah Schwartzman, a sociology professor at the University of Toronto, blames the disparity in the treatment of refugees on racism. Africans and Haitians are considered “Black,” while Ukrainians are Europeans and classified as “white.”
“Those (Haitians) who reach the U.S. are then detained, after which many get deported,“ she said in a Conversation article. “The 1951 refugee convention was designed to protect people fleeing conditions created by Nazi Germany’s genocidal anti-Jewish racism. But the refugee system fails to prevent the pervasive and often deadly forms of racism that Haitians face. This racism is transnational, and its source are the countries of destination.”
Inland Valley News coverage of local news in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support minority-owned-and-operated community newspapers across California.