By Miriam Jordan | The New York Post
The Biden administration announced on Friday that it would offer temporary protected status to nationals of Cameroon, shielding them from deportation and enabling them to obtain work permits, amid escalating armed conflict that has spawned a humanitarian crisis in the African country.
Some 40,000 nationals of Cameroon, many of whom sought safe haven in the United States in recent years, are expected to be eligible. The largest communities of people from Cameroon are in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area and California.
Immigrant advocates and Democratic lawmakers had been ratcheting up pressure on the Biden administration in recent months to extend the humanitarian protection to Cameroon, especially after the administration moved swiftly when war erupted in Ukraine to offer temporary protected status last month to people from that country who were already in the United States.
That decision, which benefited some 30,000 Ukrainians, highlighted what critics said appeared to be a stark difference in the government’s treatment of Europeans and nationals of countries with majority Black or Hispanic populations.
The designation will benefit Cameroonians who were in the United States as of April 14, and it will last for 18 months. Advocates applauded the decision but said it was overdue.
“We have been fighting for a very long time to get T.P.S. for Cameroon,” said Guerline Jozef, co-founder of the Haitian Bridge Alliance and the Cameroonian Advocacy Network, who has been among the most vocal proponents of extending the protection.
“The way the U.S. was able to quickly provide protection for Ukrainians while denying protection for Black and brown vulnerable people is proof of a double standard,” she said.
Robyn Barnard, senior advocacy counsel for refugee protection at Human Rights First, said the humanitarian protection “had been urgently needed for years, and is the right move by the Biden administration.”
Hundreds of thousands of people in Cameroon have been displaced by a five-year civil war pitting the French-speaking government against English-speaking separatists.
The strife has displaced some two million people in Anglophone regions and has resulted in thousands of civilian deaths and widespread food insecurity. As of December, 4.4 million people in Cameroon required humanitarian assistance, according to the United Nations. The State Department has cataloged serious human rights violations perpetrated by the police and the military, including torture and extrajudicial killings.
Fearing for their lives, several thousand Cameroon citizens from the English-speaking northwest have embarked on treacherous journeys to seek asylum, crossing South America, including the lawless jungle stretch called the Darien Gap, and Mexico to reach the United States. On arrival, many have been locked up in immigration detention facilities.
Hundreds have been expelled back to Cameroon. International human rights groups have documented that some of them have fallen victim to persecution and abuse after returning to their country.