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Temporary Protected Status for YemenOn July 6, 2021, the Biden administration announced the extension of a program to support Yemeni individuals currently living in the U.S. as Yemen grapples with civil war and the most severe humanitarian crisis in the world. Even before the conflict, Yemen was the most impoverished nation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), with a poverty rate of more than 50%. Today, more than three-quarters of Yemen grapples with poverty. The Biden administration has extended the Temporary Protected Status for Yemen nationals in the United States due to deteriorating conditions in Yemen.

The Situation in Yemen

Since the civil rights crisis began, Yemen’s economy has unarguably collapsed. The conditions exacerbated citizens’ vulnerabilities and destroyed critical infrastructure, while famine-level food insecurity ravaged the nation. The political crisis coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic led to Yemenis living in increased poverty.

The World Bank notes that “more than 40% of Yemeni households that find it difficult to buy even the minimum amount of food may have also lost their primary source of income.” Additionally, 19.9 million citizens live without access to sufficient healthcare services. Proper healthcare is more crucial than ever considering the impact of COVID-19 and Yemen’s recent outbreaks of “cholera, diphtheria, measles and dengue fever.” Experts argue that rebuilding Yemen’s economy and mending “Yemen’s social fabric” can only happen with an “eventual political reconciliation.”

Temporary Protected Status

Congress created the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the Immigration Act of 1990, where it provides “temporary immigration status” to nationals of countries grappling with extraordinary conditions, such as ongoing armed conflict and violence. Also, the Secretary of Homeland Security may grant TPS to a country suffering an ongoing environmental disaster or epidemic.

Once granting an individual TPS, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) cannot detain them based on their immigration status. TPS also does not impact an application for asylum or any other immigration benefits. Syria, El Salvador, Haiti and South Sudan are currently designated for TPS in addition to Yemen and several other countries. In the distant past, the U.S. granted TPS to countries like Lebanon, Kuwait and Rwanda.

The decision to extend the TPS of Yemeni nationals in the U.S. allows them to stay in the country without fear of deportation. Undoubtedly, the collapse of healthcare systems, sanitation and education services in Yemen bears influence on the decision. Furthermore, an unstable political transition compounded the need for this decision.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced the extended Temporary Protected Status for Yemen after consulting with interagency partners. Mayorkas stated that the U.S. has “decided to extend and re-designate Yemen for Temporary Protected Status. We will continue to protect and offer their individuals a place of residency temporarily in the United States.”

US Role in the Yemen Crisis

In February 2021, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced an end to U.S. support for offensive operations in the Yemen war, including relevant arms sales. The move contrasts the positions of Presidents Obama and Trump. President Trump backed arms deals with the Saudi coalition, citing benefits for the U.S. economy even though the weapons led to the harm of civilians. However, the outflow of arms to the Middle East initially started under the Obama administration.

Furthermore, on March 1, 2021, Secretary Blinken announced $191 million in humanitarian assistance to Yemen, making the U.S. one of the largest donors for relief to Yemen. To promote more aid, Blinken urged parties at the virtual 2021 High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen to follow in the footsteps of the U.S. by helping to “end the conflict in Yemen.” The Biden administration’s action to extend Temporary Protected Status for Yemen “will allow approximately 1,700 Yemenis to keep their status through 2023” and will also enable another 480 Yemenis to apply.

Overall, the TPS extension to Yemenis in the U.S. shows the United States’ commitment to safeguarding the well-being of vulnerable people whose lives would be at risk in their home countries.

– Alysha Mohamed

Photo: Flickr

Pandemic Refugees in the United States
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected refugees, causing a migration crisis and hindering equality among poor people. Millions of people have experienced displacement from their homes since the outbreak began. This massive displacement created a concentration of immigrants in urban areas seeking asylum. The term for these individuals is “pandemic refugees.” Pandemic refugees in the United States are individuals the virus severely affected who desire a place to seek asylum and better-quality health services. However, the virus spread rapidly across borders, making it harder for refugees to find places that are genuinely safe.

Actions from the IOM

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), which is the United Nations’ migration agency, has worked hard to provide shelter to those the COVID-19 pandemic displaced. The organization also partnered with the World Food Program (WFP) to fight for people currently facing food and sanitary crises. Poverty deprives people of access to health facilities, allowing them to potentially avoid the virus. Additionally, the lack of new jobs and the government imposing quarantines have led people to seek help from organizations or even become pandemic refugees forced to cross borders looking for a better living standard.

Reaching the United States

Devastated economies have caused millions of individuals to flee to the United States, potentially traveling long distances in their journeys. Dozens of people pile up on the border between Mexico and the United States. These refugees pack minimum necessities and hit the road, attempting to cross the border and start a new life as unauthorized U.S. citizens. The Biden administration has encountered a significant number of refugees seeking prosperity and asylum in the aftermath of the pandemic. The U.S. Border Patrol has stated that refugees try to cross the borders daily. These numbers are quickly growing to overwhelming amounts.

Opportunity and Despair

While pandemic refugees in the United States seek a better life, they also encounter difficulties when searching for jobs. Compared to documented citizens, opportunities for undocumented citizens are different. Governments frequently attempt to send them back to their home country. Because of this, vulnerable groups like refugees are paying the highest price during the COVID-19 pandemic. Complications from the pandemic have created despair for individuals who flee their land and families. The closure of borders and restrictions on movement limit individuals’ access to food, housing and overall security. There are few cases of success and opportunities for refugees who fled their home countries seeking better opportunities. Security is also a significant problem for refugees since they are vulnerable groups and can spread the virus.

US COVID-19 Response

The United States has responded to the pandemic with a relief package of $11 billion for a global response. The U.S. government has worked hard to stop extreme poverty levels during the pandemic, and increase vaccination numbers and sustainable development. The country has also implemented unemployment benefits to give extra money to qualified unemployed individuals. Nevertheless, the U.S. must extend more of these protections to pandemic refugees. If it does, pandemic refugees in the United States will obtain the assistance and security they deserve to protect themselves and their families.

– Ainara Ruano Cervantes
Photo: Flickr

Global COVID-19 Response
President Joe Biden’s selection of Dr. Rochelle Walensky to run the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be instrumental in strengthening the agency’s global COVID-19 response moving forward. By strengthening the agency in three key ways, Dr. Walensky will benefit the CDC’s pandemic response both at home and abroad.

3 Ways Dr. Rochelle Walensky Will Benefit COVID-19 Global Response

  1. Dr. Walensky’s previous work improving access to HIV testing brings hope that, under her leadership, the CDC will strengthen the global COVID-19 response by determining effective testing measures and increasing access to testing. Scientists continue to call for increased testing to effectively manage and control the spread of COVID-19 as the number of confirmed cases remains uncertain due to insufficient testing worldwide. Dr. Walensky has received international recognition for prior work on cost-effective HIV testing, care and prevention. Her previous research has emphasized the importance of providing treatment to those living with HIV while also highlighting the need for greater access to HIV testing in order to reduce the spread of the disease. Given Dr. Walensky’s knowledge and experience demonstrating the cost-effectiveness of increased access to HIV testing, expectations have determined that she will similarly advocate for more accurate COVID-19 testing as the head of the CDC.
  2. A study by Dr. Walensky and other researchers demonstrates the need for greater investments in overall vaccine distribution if countries hope to control the spread of the coronavirus through immunization. While Dr. Walensky’s expertise in HIV prevention will prove to be essential as COVID-19 vaccines become available, growing concerns exist regarding vaccine distribution in low-income countries. The wealthiest countries have purchased the two leading COVID-19 vaccines, threatening to delay access to vaccines in poorer nations. This situation could be devastating for developed and developing countries alike, as even countries that achieve herd immunity could be vulnerable to outbreaks if the world’s poorest countries do not bring the virus under control. While the researchers’ research centers on vaccine distribution within the United States, the concerns they present apply to vaccine distribution in developing countries, where proper investments in vaccination campaigns will be necessary to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines to all people. By placing these concerns at the forefront of vaccine distribution, the CDC under Dr. Walensky will benefit the agency’s ability to assist vaccination campaigns internationally.
  3. Dr. Walensky’s colleagues and mentors have praised her for her ability to bring cultural sensitivity to her work, a practice that will endure as she leads the CDC. Her previous work has equipped Dr. Walensky with the experience necessary to provide tailored knowledge and COVID-19 support to developing countries within the respective contexts. With limited COVID-19 funding, the CDC will benefit from Dr. Walensky’s guidance, as she recognizes the importance of addressing underlying factors that contribute to the spread of COVID-19, including poverty and the living conditions of the impoverished. Additionally, others know her for her effective communication within underserved and marginalized communities.  By improving adherence to CDC guidelines in communities that have historically experienced exclusion or mistreatment by Western medical professionals, Dr. Walensky will further benefit the CDC’s response.

Although the CDC has previously lacked in its ability to respond to the pandemic both domestically and internationally, Dr. Walensky’s leadership will benefit the global COVID-19 response by strengthening the agency’s focus on adequately combating the virus globally. Her prior experience and research insights will help shine a light on those at risk of being left behind.

– Emely Recinos
Photo: Flickr