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Every person is worthy of humanitarian relief

Addressing the differential treatment of people based on white supremacy

In the month of February, Russia invaded Ukraine forcing millions of people to become refugees, abandoning their homes in search of safety in neighboring countries. The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine is nothing less than horrific and a violation of human rights.

It is in these moments of terror we see humanity step up, offering support, empathy, prayers, and aid in whatever capacity that may be. The people of Ukraine need all the support they can get and one way we can assist is by informing ourselves.   

There is no denying that this historical moment in time is atrocious and inhumane; however, we cannot discuss the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine without discussing the parallel crisis in Cameroon, Syria and Haiti and the differential response from the US and the European Union these refugees received within the last year.   

Over the past three years the US government’s Border Patrol turned away many Haitian and Cameroonian refugees and immigrants from Latina America. The US deployed resources used to install barbed wire, purchase weapons, additional dogs and ATVs, utilizing violence in response to people fleeing for their lives. Many people were unnecessarily detained and families were separated.

For years advocates have asked the US government to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to protect people living in the US from deportation to their countries of birth – countries that are not safe right now. 

In contrast, the US government streamlined the entry of Ukranians seeking asylum at the border and issued an immediate grant of TPS, protecting Ukranians already living without status in the US. While policies that have shut the border to Black and Brown asylum seekers remain in place, those same policies have been suspended for white Ukranians.

Recently, after years of advocacy, the Biden Administration approved TPS for Cameroonians – but they are still rejected and expelled at the border when seeking asylum, instead of being process through like Ukranians.  

Human rights are universal – and must be universally applied and implemented for true protection to be realized. We must address the underlying hypocrisy and bias driving differential treatment of human beings fleeing dangerous conditions around the world.  

It is important to acknowledge the racism that has been rampant throughout this time not just in the United States but in other parts of the world ,even within Ukraine where Black refugees along with other refugees of color who have been attempting to flee Ukraine have been denied entry at border crossings. (See African and Indian Nationals Face Racism as They Attempt to Flee Ukraine). 

Mainstream news media outlets have also been criticized since the beginning of Russia's invasion of neighboring Ukraine due to racist news coverage. There have been comparisons to conflicts in occupied Palestine, Afghanistan, Haiti, Africa, and Latin America that dehumanizes and normalizes the way these individuals experience war suggesting that Ukrainians are “more worthy of sympathy because they are ‘civilized’ and white.

All of us have work to do to live our values and unpack internalized white supremacy. Those of us who are white must do the work to name our biases, build empathy and engage in solidarity with communities of color. (See “Orientalist and Racist”: News Outlets Condemned over War Coverage.)

Every person, every ethnicity, culture, and religion, is worthy of refuge, of sympathy and empathy; Ukrainians, Haitians, Palestinians, Hondurans, every single person is worthy of humanitarian relief. As individuals who are seeking to provide support and aid in whatever capacity we are able to, it is important to acknowledge these discrepancies and educate ourselves as well as our peers on these harmful, generational issues.

Now more than ever we need solidarity within communities, within nations, within ourselves, and there are so many  ways in which you can offer your support to the global efforts to provide humanitarian aid through many community  organizations already doing the work who can use more hands.   

  1. Ukrainians of Colorado is a nonprofit organization located in Lakewood, CO who has been collecting and sending aid in forms of medical supplies and monetary aid, to the people of Ukraine. See Ukrainian immigrants in Colorado feel the pull of home, tell Polis and Coloradans how to help.

  2. The Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is an organization that has already provided humanitarian aid and support to Ukrainian refugees and refugees of various backgrounds. See The Ukraine Crisis Action Hub

  3. The Colorado Refugee Services Program has long been providing aid to refugees of all backgrounds including Afghans, Haitians, and others.  Visit their site to see how they are asking for support in these moments. See the CRSP website

  4. Locally Haiti is a local organization in Colorado that advocates for and invests in locally led initiatives in order to provide support and aid to their community partners in Haiti. See Locally Haiti's website.

For more on how to support refugee and asylum seeker resettlement in Colorado, check out How to Support Refugee Resettlement in Colorado..

Leslie Macias is interning with AFSC Colorado’s Not1More project. She is a California native and proud daughter of Mexican immigrants who with their many struggles, sacrifices, and faithful determination for a better life have led her to where she is today: a first-generation Latinx woman pursuing a dual-degree in Social Work and International Human Rights at the University of Denver.

She received an Associate’s degree in Psychology from College of the Sequoias, a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a double minor in Multicultural & Gender Studies and Psychology from California State University, Chico. She was a member of M.E.Ch.A, the Cross-Cultural Leadership Center, and the Gender, Sexuality, & Equity Center.

After her undergraduate studies, she was a Victim Advocate for Human Trafficking victims/survivors where she learned much about trauma, human rights, advocacy and the criminal justice system and its many discrepancies. In her free time, she enjoys going to the gym, practicing yoga and mindfulness, spending time in nature, exploring local coffee shops, and tending to her plantitas. 

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