Posted on April 8, 2022

African Immigrant Advocates Point To ‘Double Standard’ as Ukrainians Receive U.S. Relief

Char Adams, NBC News, April 5, 2022

In the wake of President Joe Biden announcing plans to welcome 100,000 Ukrainian refugees to the U.S., African and Caribbean immigrants are questioning why so many Black refugees fleeing their conflict-torn countries have been denied similar humanitarian consideration.

Biden also announced that Ukrainians already in the U.S. would receive Temporary Protected Status, meaning that they would not be deported. This is more, advocates for Black immigrants said, than the nation has done for Haitians fleeing after a deadly earthquake and their president’s assassination; for Cameroonians displaced by their country’s civil war; and for the thousands of Black immigrants deported under what they call racist, xenophobic immigration policies.

“The reality is that all over the world, unfortunately, there are many people who are experiencing similar things and don’t get that type of urgency from the U.S. government or attention,” said Samah Sisay, a Liberian immigrant who has spent years working as an immigration lawyer and is now with the Center for Constitutional Rights.

“It’s just clear racism. There’s this feeling that Ukrainians are Europeans and therefore, the immigration system maybe doesn’t view them as a threat in the same ways we see conversations about Black migrants,” Sisay said. “You see how there is this double standard.”


Reports have highlighted the stark differences between the ways African and Middle Eastern refugees from Ukraine have been welcomed into western Europe compared with white Ukrainians. Last month, an alliance of prominent civil rights lawyers from around the world announced it would file an appeal to the United Nations on behalf of Black refugees facing discrimination while trying to flee the invasion.

Meanwhile, immigrant advocates and politicians have consistently called for relief for Black immigrants and refugees in the U.S. In the weeks leading up to the conflict in Ukraine, the U.S. halted deportations to Ukraine and U.S. Reps. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., urged the administration in a letter to “extend that same level of compassion” to Haitians in the U.S.

The U.S. has deported more than 20,000 Haitians since September, Pressley and Jones noted in their letter. Cameroonians deported in recent years have reported being raped, tortured, jailed and more.


One in 10 Black people in the U.S. are immigrants, and the number is only expected to rise, according to recent data from the Pew Research Center.

Black immigrants are more likely to be deported than immigrants of other races, according to a report from the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. And bond amounts for Black immigrants to leave detention centers and end family separations are routinely higher than those for non-Black immigrants, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services found.

Because Black communities are far more frequently targeted for arrest and prosecution than the general population, 76 percent of Black immigrants are deported because of contact with police, according to the Black Alliance report.

Sylvie Bello, founder of the Cameroon American Council, a Washington-based organization dedicated to supporting Cameroonian immigrants and refugees, said she’s “not shocked” by the disparities. {snip}

“We’ve always known that African, Black people always get the worst of the worst,” Bello said. “Ukraine has TPS after days of conflict, and there’s no Cameroonian TPS after five years. That discrimination should not come as a shock because every other program within American immigration justice is anti-Black, anti-African. … Why is it that Black pain doesn’t meet restitution and immigration relief?”