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Apparently, there was some big news recently about immigration. I am not sure about that, but there was some other news this week, a bit under the radar, also about immigration: The United States has offered Temporary Protected Status ("TPS") to people from Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone who are currently present in the United States. The reason: Ebola.
"I'm 25% more dangerous than Ebola."
This means that people from those countries will not be removed from the United States, and they are eligible for a work permit. The TPS is designated to last for 18 months, and then could be renewed or ended, depending on conditions in West Africa (and political considerations in North America). Applications for TPS must be submitted before May 20, 2015.
How does this contrast with our current policy towards Central America and Mexico? People in that part of the world do not face a threat from Ebola, but they do face a threat from cartel and gang violence, domestic violence, and--increasingly--government-sponsored violence related to the drug trade. So here's a question: Which of these two scenarios is more likely: A person from Liberia dying from Ebola, or a person from Honduras dying by violence? Let's take a look at some numbers.
According to the Center for Disease Control, 2,964 people in Liberia have died due to Ebola. The total population of Liberia is 4,092,310. This means that approximately 72 out of 100,000 Liberians have died from Ebola. Compare this to Honduras, where the murder rate is about 90 per 100,000. For those of you who like numbers, this means that a Honduran person is about 25% more likely to die from violence than a Liberian person is to die from Ebola.
The story is similar for the other TPS countries. Sierra Leone has had 1,250 Ebola deaths, with a population of 6,190,280, or about 20 deaths per 100,000 people. And Guinea has had 1,192 deaths with a population of 10,628,972, or about 11 deaths per 100,000 people.
Other Central American countries are less violent than Honduras, but still very dangerous. The homicide rate in El Salvador is about 41 per 100,000 and Guatemala is 39 per 100,000. The rate in Mexico is about 21 per 100,000, but I suspect that that figure is out-dated, as violence there has been escalating.
In other words, generally speaking, a person in Mexico or Central America is more likely to die from violence than a person from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone is to die from Ebola. And yet we have offered TPS to West Africans and nothing to Central Americans. Why?
I suppose one reason is the nature of the problem. Ebola is a new threat and it is likely to be short-lived. Also, it is very frightening and its potential victims are completely innocent. Finally, there probably aren't a whole lot of people currently in the U.S. who will qualify or apply for TPS; maybe a few thousand. Gang and cartel violence, on the other hand, is more complicated. The problem is endemic and it does not look to go away anytime soon. Victims of this type of violence might also be perpetrators, and so offering them protection can seem dangerous (though I would argue that we can effectively weed out the bad guys). Last, there are a lot of people from Mexico and Central America currently in the United States. To offer them TPS would be a long-term, large scale commitment.
Which all brings us back to the Big Announcement of the week: Deferred Action for many people who have been in the U.S. for 5+ years. This certainly is a humanitarian benefit, in that it will keep many families together. But it is not a humanitarian benefit in the sense that it was created to protect people from harm. People in Central America and Mexico are facing a crisis. Violence there is out of control. While I am glad that we are not requiring people to return to places with Ebola, I think we should recognize that there is a certain hypocrisy in offering TPS to such people while offering nothing to our Southern neighbors.
The danger faced by Mexicans and Central Americans is equal to--or worse than--the danger faced by West Africans. It's just that the source of the danger is different. And so in the wake of the TPS and Deferred Action announcements, I am wondering whether we should be doing more to help people fleeing the gang and drug violence that is killing so many.
Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com.
In a recent press conference, the dynamic duo of Congressman Steve King and rich guy Donald Trump made some pretty frightening claims about the young people who have lately been arriving at our Southern border. Mr. King told the audience that America is becoming “a third-world country” because of “the things that are coming at us from across the border,” including illegal drugs, Central American children of “prime gang recruitment age,” ISIS... and the Ebola virus. These are some pretty serious charges, and so we here at the Asylumist decided to investigate for ourselves. What we found will shock you.
King and Trump: A couple of cards. Probably jokers.
After flying down to Texas, I went to a detention facility that must remained unnamed. There, I met a 14-year-old boy, who we will call Juan. Juan hails from El Salvador--or so he says--and claims that members of a gang attacked his house, threatened his family, and tried to kill him. He then fled to the United States. It's a sad tale, but is it true? I suspected that there was more to the story. You see, Juan has brownish skin, so he is likely a Muslim. Plus, when I met him, he was sweating. This, despite the fact that the detention facility is kept at a balmy 52 degrees Fahrenheit. In my book, Sweating = Ebola. I had some hard questions for Juan:
ASYLUMIST: Salaam Alaikum.
JUAN: [stares blankly]
ASYLUMIST: Salaam Alaikum.
JUAN: I am not sure what you are saying to me.
ASYLUMIST: Yeh, right. So tell me Juan, if that is your real name, why did you come to the United States?
JUAN: Actually, Juan is not my name. You just started calling me Juan for some reason. My real name is Alberto.
ASYLUMIST: For purposes of this interview, we will call you Juan. So tell me, Juan, why did you come here?
JUAN: In my town, the gang is very powerful. If you don't join them, they threaten you, take your money, even kill you. Gang members have targeted my family because we are Evangelical Christians and we refuse to join the gang. My father is a Minister. Because we refused to join, the gang set our house on fire, they fired a gun through our window, they threatened me many times with guns and knives. Finally, they tried to kill me, so I had to...
ASYLUMIST: Blah, blah, blah. Everyone knows that you can't get asylum in the U.S. if you are fleeing gang violence. There's no nexus. It will open the floodgates. We have enough problems here already. We don't need ********ers like you messing up our country.
JUAN: But I am not a gang member! And I heard that in some cases, when a person is threatened on account of his religion, he can receive asylum in the U.S. even if the persecutor is not the government. There is a case about that called Matter of S-A-. Also, the gang targeted my whole family; not just me, and "family" is a protected category under U.S. asylum law. One case that discusses family as a social group is Lopez-Soto v. Ashcroft. Besides these published decisions, there are many unpublished decisions where people like me have received asylum in the United States.
ASYLUMIST: You seem to know a lot about asylum for a 14-year-old Salvadoran boy. Very suspicious. Let's shift gears. Why are you so sweaty?
JUAN: I don't have Ebola.
ASYLUMIST: Ah Ha! I didn't even mention Ebola. Why would you bring it up unless you had Ebola. Thou protesteth too much, dear Juan. Excuse me while I relocate myself outside your six-foot danger zone.
JUAN: You mentioned it at the very beginning! And I really don't have Ebola. I've been detained here for two months. If I had Ebola, I'd be dead by now.
ASYLUMIST: You're spitting when you talk. Please stop that.
JUAN: I was not spitting.
ASYLUMIST: If you don't have Ebola, how do you explain the sweating?
JUAN: Maybe because I am stressed. I fled my country and I'm away from my family for the first time. The gang tried to kill me. Now, I've been detained for the last two months.
ASYLUMIST: I'm not buying it. Didn't you come here to take our jobs and our women, collect welfare, and spread Ebola and Jihad? Is that a prayer rug you're sitting on? And what's that book next to you? It looks like a Koran.
ASYLUMIST: You're sitting on a Muslim prayer rug. And that book looks like a Koran.
JUAN: No, I am sitting on a towel. There was no bed space for me, so they gave me a towel to sleep on. It is not very comfortable.
ASYLUMIST: And the book?
JUAN: Pep Comics # 224. It's about Jughead Jones and his dog named Hot Dog. The dog used to belong to Archie, but somehow Jughead got him.
ASYLUMIST: I see. Anything else you want to add before I leave this godforsaken place?
JUAN: I am just hoping to get my case heard. I am afraid to return to my country. I want to live safely and in peace. I don't have any diseases and I am not a terrorist or a criminal. I really don't understand the United States. You are so powerful, and yet you are afraid of a 14 year old boy. I hope you will help me. And why are you on the floor in the fetal position?
ASYLUMIST: Please don't unleash your Jihadi Ebola attack on me! Ahh! Run away!
Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com.
Updated 10-30-2014 at 11:06 AM by JDzubow