FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 8, 2022
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As Russia’s shocking invasion of Ukraine is causing a new refugee crisis in Europe, Ukraine’s neighbors are welcoming and accepting Ukrainians fleeing the violence. The United States, Europe, and other allies are taking swift action to help the Ukrainian people, from humanitarian aid packages to loosening visa restrictions. This is urgently needed at this time, when Russia is threatening democracies everywhere.
But according to Alianza Americas, a coalition of 55 migrant-led organizations in 18 states, the outpouring of solidarity for Ukraine’s asylum seekers stands in stark contrast to past harsh and xenophoic responses by the U.S. and Europe to mass migration events, involving majority non-White asylum seekers.
“When you see USAID head Samantha Power travel to Poland to call attention to Ukraine’s unfolding refugee crisis, and yet the reaction to the other ongoing migration crisis in the Americas has been for Vice President Kamala Harris to tell people ‘don’t come,’ sends an undeniable symbolic message about who gets preferential treatment and who doesn’t,” said Helena Olea, associate director for programs at Alianza Americas.
Xenophobic and racist responses to mass migration events involving non-White populations are all too common in the Americas. Right now in Tapachula, Mexico, there are thousands of migrants from Haiti, Honduras, Cameroon, and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa left stranded with no access to travel paperwork, struggling for food and shelter. Mexico and Guatemala frequently respond to groups of migrants with raids, crackdowns, and violent beatings. Meanwhile, the Biden administration continues to uphold policies like Title 42, keeping its southern border closed to Mexican, Central American, Haitian, and African and Asian asylum seekers. And while the Biden administration moved swiftly to designate Ukraine for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) protections, Cameroon, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and Central American nations — all facing significant humanitarian disasters — have been left in the lurch.
“Even as the Biden administration moved swiftly to designate Ukraine for TPS protections, it has yet to deliver similar protections to Black and Brown migrants,” said Yanira Arias, national campaigns manager at Alianza Americas. “The people of Latin America know full well what the experience of war is, having suffered the trauma, pain, and reverberations of armed conflict for generations. Our hearts ache for Ukraine, yet it is unquestionable that there’s been a stark contrast to how the U.S. responds to violence in Latin America and what’s happening in Europe.”
Another differentiation in the U.S. response to Ukraine’s crisis can be seen in aid levels: the U.S. is pledging hundreds of millions of dollars in military and humanitarian assistance, compared to the miniscule amounts of aid offered to the U.S.’s southern neighbors, who are grappling with crises of climate change disasters and pervasive criminal violence that is akin to a constant state of warfare.
“War is an illegal racket benefiting oil barons, dictators, and oligarchs at the expense of the people and the planet. Our goals must be to demilitarize, democratize, defend human rights, and hold those who make war to account,” said Matt Nelson, director of digital impact at Alianza Americas, and director of Presente.org. “Ukrainians will need intense and ongoing support from the international community in the coming weeks and months. Europe’s new refugee crisis highlights how when it comes to receiving those fleeing violence and oppression, our response to crisis and war should never be xenophobia and antipathy, but acceptance and willingness to help. Those fleeing violence across the Americas are also in dire need of a humanitarian response and we call upon all nations to act together to ensure human rights for all,” concluded Nelson.
Alianza Americas is the premier transnational advocacy network of Latin American migrant-led organizations working in the United States, across the Americas, and globally to create an inclusive, equitable and sustainable way of life for communities across North, Central and South America.
Presente.org is Alianza Americas’ digital organizing platform. As the nation’s largest online Latinx organizing group — and the nation’s premier Latinx digital organizing hub — Presente.org advances social justice with technology, media, and culture.