Last issue, we told you how we were thinking about the situation in Ukraine; many of these sources will have updates. We would add just a few recommendations:
Two months into this devastating war, Foreign Policy in Focus proposes an end to binary thinking about it and insists that we think not just about the horrors that Russia is perpetrating but the danger to Europe as a whole of NATO expansion. And the Nation reminds us that we are on the precipice of nuclear war and urges the US to support Ukraine in negotiations, not in a fight to the death of its people and its country. Noam Chomsky articulates this position well: “There are two ways for a war to end: One way is for one side or the other to be basically destroyed. And the Russians are not going to be destroyed. So that means one way is for Ukraine to be destroyed. The other way is some negotiated settlement. If there’s a third way, no one’s ever figured it out.” Chomsky’s concern, the Intercept points out, is that US policy appears to reject negotiations.
Supporting those who have lost their homes and country is clearly a priority; a Canadian scholar argues that Canada should in particular welcome international students who were studying in Ukraine and may not be able to return to their home countries; Black students in particular have been discriminated against in the relocation process, according to the Toronto Star. The Star also notes what while we think about the survivors and the dead, there are many people missing–perhaps simply out of reach, perhaps captured by Russian forces, perhaps dead. The Star describes them this way: “They are people who went out for food or help and never returned. Children who boarded evacuation buses bound for safety and instead vanished. Those who have suffered injuries or succumbed to them, somewhere unknown, far from family and loved ones.”
It might be a good time to read “To Go to Lvov” by Adam Zagajewski, which speaks to all that once was and that now is being lost in a place continually cut out of its context. (Lvov was once in Poland; it is now in Ukraine and called Lviv.)
NY Magazine has a kind of collaborative diary by young Ukrainians about the beginning of the war. You can read additional Ukrainian writers in the journal Elsewhere.
We also recommend that you look at Peter Turnley’s extraordinary documentary photographs (posted in Mother Jones) of people going back to–and leaving–Ukraine.
In our resources section, we identify places to donate to assist Ukrainians who have had to flee their country. We also note that refugees are still waiting desperately at the southern border of the US, and that the organizations who serve them still need support.
1. Ukrainians were exempted from Title 42. Will the policy really be lifted?
More than 1.5 million people have been deported under Title 42, the Trump-era CDC law under which almost everyone seeking asylum at the southern US border was immediately sent to Mexico with no due process nor appeal–in complete violation of asylum policy and practice. Biden continued Title 42, only permitting unaccompanied children and a few particularly vulnerable applicants to stay. Now the administration has announced that it will end Title 42 on May 23–though anyone who arrives before that time will continue to be turned back, Al Jazeera reports.
As the date when Title 42 is set to expire, both Republicans and electorally vulnerable Democrats have expressed dismay, and a number have signed on to a bill intended to delay the lifting of Title 42 for sixty days, according to NPR, which has a clear summary of the policy. The concern is that there will be a surge of people trying to cross the border–as many as 18,000 a day, immigration officials estimate. A district court judge in Louisana has indicated that he will likely issue a temporary restraining order on lifting Title 42, in response to a lawsuit by Republicans, Politico reports. A group of immigration organizations have published an open letter, “We Are Ready to Welcome,” urging the government to drop Title 42.
At the same time, the consequences for those deported have been dire: Human Rights First has documented “nearly 10,000 reports of kidnapping, torture, rape, and other violent attacks against people sent to Mexico under Title 42 from the start of last year through mid-March.” Moreover, the Border Patrol did not send people back to where they had come from, but completely different areas, meaning that they ended up in camps without any kind of community support–just the sort of crowded areas guaranteed to spread COVID 19, which Title 42 was supposedly intended to prevent, according to Immigration Impact.
Although immigration officials say that Title 42 is being ended because pandemic conditions have changed, it also solves the contradiction of Ukrainians being exempted from Title 42. Those at the Southern border are being permitted into the country within hours or days, BuzzFeed points out, while those from other countries have been waiting up to a year. These and other disparities, detailed by BuzzFeed, have not gone unnoticed. As Kennji Kizuka, an associate director at Human Rights First told CBS News, “Where were the exemptions for Haitian asylum-seekers arriving last fall? Where are those exemptions for Cuban, Nicaraguan and Venezuelan asylum-seekers, for asylum-seekers from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras?”
2. Biden administration continues to incarcerate asylum seekers: new report
Human Rights First has released a comprehensive report on the high costs of the Obama/Trump/Biden administrations’ asylum policy. While we may imagine that perhaps families are no longer being separated at the border and that due process has been restored, in fact the US government has incarcerated tens of thousands of asylum seekers fleeing horrific situations around the world. Even those asylum-seekers who have successfully argued that their fear of persecution is well-founded spend an average of nearly 11 months in jail. While incarcerated, asylum-seekers access to legal counsel is limited and they are often subjected to abuse of various kinds; Black asylum-seekers endure harsh, racist treatment. Attorney Rebecca Gendelman’s twitter feed includes a series of quotes from asylum-seekers; Gendelman works with Human Rights First. Read at least the report’s table of contents; the situation is worse than most of us ever imagined.
3. Cameroonians given Temporary Protected Status
In part because of the way refugees from Ukraine have been prioritized, the U.S. government has finally given Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to asylum-seekers from Cameroon, who cannot return to their country due to civil war there, Democracy Now reports. 40,000 are eligible to apply for this status, which would permit them to stay in the country for 18 months and legally work. In February, Human Rights Watch released a report demonstrating that asylum-seekers from Cameroon were denied due process in the US and abused in ICE custody, then deported back to the country where they and members of their families were subjected “to serious human rights violations including rape, torture and other physical abuse, arbitrary arrest and detention, inhuman and degrading treatment in detention, extortion, and threats,” the report stated. Human Rights Watch argues that those who were improperly deported should be given the opportunity to return and apply for asylum again, this time under humane conditions.
4. Incarcerated people are also imprisoned by climate change
As summer approaches, the Intercept’s series on the impact of the climate crisis on incarcerated people deserves revisiting. In “Climate and Punishment,” the Intercept looked at the climate risks that impact 6,500 detention institutions. In Texas, 21 state prisons have no air conditioning–in a state where outdoor temperatures can reach 127 degrees F (52.7 Celsius), a serious danger to imprisoned people with chronic illnesses. The Intercept says that the person most responsible for the lack of air conditioning is Republican Governor Greg Abbott.
Those incarcerated are also vulnerable to wildfires, the Intercept reports, and to floods; last summer in Florida, people waited in cells filling with sewage from overflowing drains before being led out through knee-deep filthy water. 52 jails and prisons in Florida are vulnerable to extreme flooding, the Intercept discovered, but 621 other facilities around the country are also at grave risk. The Intercept’s interactive map of more than 6000 facilities identifies where incarcerated people are endangered by heat, wildfires and/or flooding; a video sketches the impact on family members.
5. $10/day childcare in Canada
Canada will soon have nationwide childcare for $10 per day, now that Ontario’s straggling premier Doug Ford has signed on, according to the Toronto Star. The federal government has allocated over $10 billion for the program, which in the first year will cut the current cost of childcare in half, and by year four will reach the $10 per day goal. The government also plans to spend millions more to create new childcare spaces. On average, childcare in Canada costs $10,000 per year, although in major cities such as Toronto, it can cost $20,000, according to a 2018 CTV study. The deal includes a “floor” of $18/hr for daycare workers (about $14.40 in US dollars), the CBC says, which advocates point out is not enough to keep workers in the field, where the average tenure is about three years.
SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT
6. New treatments for COVID
In the last issue, we also alerted you to new treatments for COVID, as well as a preventative treatment for immuno-compromised people. The CDCs recommendation for a second booster for immuno-compromised people and people over 50 has since led to numerous questions as people assess their own risk. The Washington Post’s Dr. Leana Wen answers a series of questions that may be of interest to you (no paywall).
If you’re in Canada, note this article from the Toronto Star about Paxlovid–a quite effective treatment for COVID that is available but not getting distributed adequately. Similarly, it is available in the US but supplies are unevenly distributed, according to the Lever. The short version, if you get COVID and you have vulnerabilities of any kind, advocate for it–but make sure the pharmacist evaluates possible interactions with other drugs you might be taking.
Note as well that on April 14, Health Canada finally approved Evusheld, which protects people who are immuno-compromised, don’t produce antibodies to COVID from the vaccine, or are unable to be vaccinated against COVID and its variants. If you’re in one of these categories, alert your doctor that you now have an additional way to stay well–especially important as masks come off.
7. Research on long COVID
Long COVID is a troubling phenomenon, especially since with reduced testing, it is difficult for patients to document that they had COVID and therefore that the subsequent problems are COVID-related, according to the Toronto Star. Still, researchers in Canada believe recovery is possible–and common; they recommend that people pace themselves, allow time for rest, re-enter full activities slowly. In addition, there is some anecdotal evidence that Paxlovid will help relieve Long COVID, according to Reuters. Long COVID is generating new research on the phenomenon–with patients and patient advocacy groups central to the enterprise, the Washington Post reports. Long memories of the AIDS epidemic remind patients, families, and researchers that patients themselves have insights that are invaluable in shaping studies.
See this page on The Cut (regularly updated–refresh often) for a summary of where things stand now and how you can help. In particular, see ways to assist Black and LGBT Ukrainians who are being turned away as they try to flee the country.
Amnesty International is trying both to document human rights abuses and to assist civilians under fire.
Doctors Without Borders describes what they are doing in Ukraine: https://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/what-we-do/countries/ukraine
The United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) describes how it is providing food and other support for displaced Ukrainians inside and outside of the country.
UNICEF is supporting children in Eastern Ukraine.
World Central Kitchen is providing meals at border crossings out of Ukraine.
Al Otro Lado’s site contains a statement on the 2nd anniversary of Title 42, identifying its devastating effects. Al Otro Lado provides legal and humanitarian services to people in both the US and Tijuana. You can find out more about their work here.
The UN Refugee Agency is requesting donations for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, especially for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people. Not only because Afghan assets have been frozen, but because of massive inflation and the lack of funds to pay the salaries of public employees, the country is at risk of “a total breakdown of the economy and social order,” according to the UN Special Envoy on Afghanistan.
Among the organizations that supports kids and their families at the border is RAICES, which provides legal support. The need for their services has never been greater. You can support them here.
The Minority Humanitarian Foundation supports asylum-seekers who have been released by ICE with no means of transportation or ways to contact sponsors; they have helped numerous people–particularly but not only Cameroonians–travel to their families once released. You can donate frequent-flyer miles to make their efforts possible.
The Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project provides free legal and social services to detained adults and children under threat of deportation.
Team Brownsville also assists asylum-seekers in Brownsville, Texas, as well as those in camps just over the border, providing food, water, medical care and legal assistance.
No More Deaths provides water, food and first aid to migrants crossing the desert; they also help locate people lost in the desert and document the Border Patrol’s failure to do so.