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Disparate Treatment in Immigration

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On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded the country of Ukraine, endangering the lives of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens. One week later, on March 3, 2022, Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”) for all Ukrainians currently in the U.S., protecting them from deportation back to Ukraine as the war unfolds.[1] This quick reaction is how immigration processes should react to international crises.

On August 15, 2021, after the U.S. initiated its withdrawal from Afghanistan, the country’s capital of Kabul fell to the Taliban. Many Afghan citizens who had supported the United States during its 20-year occupancy were suddenly at threat of being killed by the new Taliban government.[2]  Although the Taliban assured the rest of the world that things would be different this time around, they have already begun reversing course on issues like allowing women to attend school.[3] Afghans were at risk of famine and large-scale starvation under the new government, an issue which was narrowly avoided via humanitarian aid but impending economic crises still loom in the country’s near-future.[4] Yet despite the United States’ direct involvement in the situation, Afghanistan was not granted Temporary Protected Status until March 16, 2022,[5] seven months after the fall of Kabul.

Both Ukraine and Afghanistan represented humanitarian crises which should have earned quick immigration policy changes. The U.S. granted TPS to the people of Ukraine after one week, while the people of Afghanistan had to wait seven months. While TPS is far from an ideal tool for helping people in need, as it only applies to people who are already in the U.S. at the time of issuance, it is better than nothing. And for months, nothing was offered to hundreds of thousands of Afghans fearing for their lives and freedoms under a new regime the U.S. all but handed the reins to.

It is easy to speculate about why the treatment of these two peoples differed, but the ultimate conclusion is that it shouldn’t have. So often the U.S. government offers the excuse that “these things take time.” But it is clear from this situation that when the U.S. wants to act quickly, it can. And we should expect it to.

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