Human rights activists Friday applauded the Biden administration’s decision to allow tens of thousands of immigrants from war-torn Cameroon to temporarily live and work in the United States as a victory won by years of Black-led organizing.
Friday’s U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), designated Cameroon has granted Temporary Protected Status to (TPS) approximately 11,700 persons currently living in the United States. They can stay in the country for an 18-month period.
“The United States recognizes the ongoing armed conflict in Cameroon, and we will provide temporary protection to those in need,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “Cameroonian nationals currently residing in the U.S. who cannot safely return due to the extreme violence perpetrated by government forces and armed separatists, and a rise in attacks led by Boko Haram, will be able to remain and work in the United States until conditions in their home country improve.”
🚨BREAKING NEWS: TPS has been designated for Cameroon 🚨This announcement is legal and we hope that the administration will continue to take these important steps to dismantle anti-Black sentiment in the immigration system. pic.twitter.com/WTuInq1W22
— Cameroon Advocacy Network (@CamAdvocacy) April 15, 2022
Guerline Jozef, co-founder of the Haitian Bridge Alliance and the Cameroonian Advocacy Network, welcomed “this much needed and overdue announcement from the Biden administration.”
“We rejoice and celebrate with our Cameroonian siblings who after a long-fought battle can finally breathe a sigh of relief… We are grateful for all our partner organizations and allies who pushed hard to get this victory; this is another example of ‘anpil men, chay pa lou,’” she added, referring to a Haitian Creole proverb meaning “many hands lighten the load.”
This was made possible by the leadership of Black led orgs who’ve been organizing for *years* to make this victory happen! It’s possible to organize! Congratulations! https://t.co/yqGjGcNn6e
— United We Dream (@UNITEDWEDREAM) April 15, 2022
One testimonial published by a coalition a human rights groups stated that Cameroonians were directly affected.
I was tortured and detained twice in my country Cameroon because I spoke against the government. During my two-months in Cameroon, I was raped by the Cameroon army force at least twice every week. At my second arrest, the military shot and killed me father.
I was held in a [U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement]I was in jail for over a year where I was abused, and badly treated by ICE. If I am deported back into Cameroon, death or life imprisonment are my options. The Cameroonian military still wants me.
This Temporary Protected status will literally save me and eliminate my fear of being deported every day I see a police officer.
In the six years since, thousands of Cameroonians were killed Hundreds of thousands more have been forced from their homes by conflict between government forces and separatist groups in two Anglophone areas of the Central African nation. Violence has also led to the displacement of hundreds upon thousands of people from Francophone regions.
Temporary Protected status (TPS), a temporary immigration status, is granted to nationals from certain countries that are experiencing problems that make it unsafe or difficult for them to be deported.
Check out our TPS fact sheet here: https://t.co/B5E03pYos4
— American Immigration Council (@immcouncil) April 15, 2022
Meanwhile, the Islamist militant organization Boko Haram has been escalated attacks in the far northern part of the country, and the government’s response has been plagued by human rights violations including unlawful killings and arbitrary arrests.
While many displaced Cameroonians have fled to neighboring nations — mainly Nigeria — thousands have also traveled to Latin America and then the southern U.S. border to seek asylum. The administration of former President Donald Trump, however, barred almost all asylum seekers in March 2020 by invoking Title 42 of the Public Health Safety Act under the pretext that the Covid-19 pandemic was raging. The Biden administration had earlier this month. announced It would end Title 42 deportations that took place in May. immense pressure Rights groups
Advocates contrasted the relative speed — less than 10 days — with which the administration granted TPS to Ukrainians following Russia’s February 24 invasion to the yearslong struggle to secure protected status for Cameroonians, an effort that began during Trump’s tenure.
“We have been fighting for a very long time to get TPS for Cameroon,” Jozef told The New York Times. “The way the U.S. was able to quickly provide protection for Ukrainians while denying protection for Black and Brown vulnerable people is a proof of a double standard.”
Daniel Tse, a co-founder of the Cameroonian Advocacy Network, said in a statement that “as history has taught us, when it comes to Black immigrants, there’s always retaliation, reluctance, and relegation involved. This is the system we work in, so the fight isn’t over. We will continue to work with our allies and push for humanitarian parole for those unjustly deported.”
Calling DHS’ decision to protect Cameroonians “exactly the kind of action America should take to protect people from violence and persecution,” Douglas Rivlin, communications director at the immigration reform group America’s Voice, asserted that “the Biden administration should be more aggressive in asserting their vision for defending immigration and immigrants and should build on today’s positive news.”
“The White House should prioritize further executive branch actions and announce TPS designations and redesignations for countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and additional nations,” he added. “These are important tools to stabilize families and communities, deliver meaningful progress, and advance America’s interests and values.”