CASA Supports Protecting Cameroonians in the Face of Mounting Violence

CASA Supports Protecting Cameroonians in the Face of Mounting Violence

CASA Supports Protecting Cameroonians in the Face of Mounting Violence, as Sen. Van Hollen, Rep. Brown Lead New Bicameral Push for TPS for Cameroon

17 February 2021, Washington, DC – CASA supports a bicameral letter led by U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen and U.S. Representative Anthony Brown (both D-Md.) urging President Joe Biden and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to designate Cameroon for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) due to ongoing armed conflicts and increasingly severe violence in the country. As the members of Congress note in their letter, deteriorating conditions and the humanitarian crisis in Cameroon require the U.S. government to take immediate action and grant protection to Cameroonians through TPS or DED. Thousands of CASA Members who are Cameroonian who would benefit tremendously from this status.

“We write to you today to request that you issue an immediate 18-month designation of either Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for Cameroon, considering the worsening conditions in the country. A humanitarian crisis and civil war characterized by massive internal displacement, war crimes, and shortages of essentials like water, food, healthcare, and housing make safe return impossible, and your administration must act quickly to extend protection from deportation to Cameroonian nationals in the United States. The Trump Administration has shamefully mistreated and deported Cameroonian asylum seekers back to danger just this year. We urge you to do much better,” the lawmakers begin.

They go on to underscore the need for action, writing, “Country conditions in Cameroon are both extraordinary and temporary, making return untenable and warranting immediate protection for Cameroonians living in the United States. Human Rights Watch estimates that 3.9 million people in Cameroon are in need of humanitarian assistance, with over 720,000 people displaced. Eighty-nine percent of the half a million internally displaced civilians were displaced due to armed conflict, and a staggering 64 percent of those internally displaced are children under eighteen.”

The lawmakers emphasize the urgency of the situation, stating, “Civilians in Cameroon are caught between multiple and complex armed conflicts between Anglophone separatists, the government, and Boko Haram (a jihadist terrorist group). Boko Haram in particular is known for their use of child soldiers in suicide bombings of crowded civilian areas, such as schools, markets, mosques, churches, and refugee camps. In its yearly human rights report on Cameroon, the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. State Department have identified an extensive and troubling catalogue of human rights abuses against Cameroonian civilians, including extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary detention, and targeted violence against vulnerable populations such as children and members of the LGBTQ+ community.”

“Conditions in Cameroon continue to worsen as violence continues and the pandemic continues to take its public health and economic toll. We call upon the administration to do its part to protect Cameroonians in the United States from deportation back to unsafe conditions by designating Cameroon for TPS or DED. We thank you for your consideration,” they conclude.

Cosigners include U.S. Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).

Cosigners also include U.S. Representatives Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), André Carson (D-Ind.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), Val Demings (D-Fla.), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (D-Ga.), Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), James P. McGovern (D-Mass.), Grace F. Napolitano (D-Calif.), Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Michael F.Q. San Nicolas (D-Guam), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Lori Trahan (D-Mass.), David Trone (D-Md.), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.).

The letter is supported by African Communities Together, CASA, CASA in Action, Human Rights First, Immigration Hub, African Diaspora for Good Governance, African Public Affairs Committee, Alianza Americas, American Friends Service Committee, Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, Center for Victims of Torture, Central American Resource Center, Central American Resource Center, Church World Service, Family Action Network Movement, First Focus on Children, Haitian Bride Alliance, HIAS, Lawyers for Good Government, Adhikaar, Mauritanian Network for Human Rights in The US, National Association of Social Workers, National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights, Ohio Immigrant Alliance, Presbyterian Church (USA), U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), UndocuBlack Network, Union for Reform Judaism, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, United Stateless, United We Dream, Venezolanos con Biden, Venezuelans and immigrants Aid, Inc., Yemeni American Merchants Association, and Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights.

Background

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a statutory status given to nationals of a certain country living in the United States if conditions in the country make return unsafe. The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may designate a country for TPS if conditions in the country meet requirements regarding ongoing armed conflict, natural disasters, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions in the country that temporarily prevent safe return. TPS provides protection from deportation and permission to work in the United States for the duration of the designation.

Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) was established to provide the president with a vital tool in U.S. foreign policy and is also used to protect foreign nationals in the United States from civil, political, and humanitarian crises in their home country that make it unsafe for them to return, or whose suspension of deportation serves other United States foreign policy or domestic interests. DED provides similar protections as TPS, but DED does not require a registration process and is triggered when an individual is identified for removal. In this way, a DED designation uses minimal resources administratively and has an immediate effect for those who qualify.

The full text of the letter is available below.

Dear President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas:

We write to you today to request that you issue an immediate 18-month designation of either Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for Cameroon, considering the worsening conditions in the country. A humanitarian crisis and civil war characterized by massive internal displacement, war crimes, and shortages of essentials like water, food, healthcare, and housing make safe return impossible, and your administration must act quickly to extend protection from deportation to Cameroonian nationals in the United States. The Trump Administration has shamefully mistreated and deported Cameroonian asylum seekers back to danger just this year. We urge you to do much better.

TPS is a statutory status given to nationals of a certain country living in the United States if conditions in the country make return unsafe. The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may designate a country for TPS if conditions in the country meet requirements regarding ongoing armed conflict, natural disasters, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions in the country that temporarily prevent safe return. TPS provides protection from deportation and permission to work in the United States for the duration of the designation.

DED was established to provide the president with a vital tool in U.S. foreign policy and is also used to protect foreign nationals in the United States from civil, political, and humanitarian crises in their home country that make it unsafe for them to return, or whose suspension of deportation serves other United States foreign policy or domestic interests. DED provides similar protections as TPS, but DED does not require a registration process and is triggered when an individual is identified for removal. In this way, a DED designation uses minimal resources administratively and has an immediate effect for those who qualify.

Country conditions in Cameroon are both extraordinary and temporary, making return untenable and warranting immediate protection for Cameroonians living in the United States. Human Rights Watch estimates that 3.9 million people in Cameroon are in need of humanitarian assistance, with over 720,000 people displaced. Eighty-nine percent of the half a million internally displaced civilians were displaced due to armed conflict, and a staggering 64 percent of those internally displaced are children under eighteen. Thousands of people are fleeing to areas wracked with drought, floods, and epidemics of cholera and COVID-19. Violence and heavy rains have catastrophically degraded infrastructure essential to deliver humanitarian aid and pandemic relief.

Civilians in Cameroon are caught between multiple and complex armed conflicts between Anglophone separatists, the government, and Boko Haram (a jihadist terrorist group). Boko Haram in particular is known for their use of child soldiers in suicide bombings of crowded civilian areas, such as schools, markets, mosques, churches, and refugee camps. In its yearly human rights report on Cameroon, the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. State Department have identified an extensive and troubling catalogue of human rights abuses against Cameroonian civilians, including extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary detention, and targeted violence against vulnerable populations such as children and members of the LGBTQ+ community. The State Department has issued a “Do Not Travel” warning for most of the country, citing “violent crime, including kidnapping by terrorists and/or kidnapping for ransom, armed robbery, assault, and carjacking.”

The global COVID-19 pandemic has only served to compound the existing violence and humanitarian need in Cameroon. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have marked Cameroon as a Level 4, or “Very High Level” of COVID-19, urging people to avoid all travel to Cameroon. Cameroon has over 73,000 reported cases and 1,197 deaths as of December 15, 2020 according to the World Health Organization.

Conditions in Cameroon continue to worsen as violence continues and the pandemic continues to take its public health and economic toll. We call upon the administration to do its part to protect Cameroonians in the United States from deportation back to unsafe conditions by designating Cameroon for TPS or DED. We thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

 

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