Designation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Cameroon
Background: The Biden-Harris Administration is continuing to drag its feet in issuing temporary protected status (TPS) for Cameroon. Every day that is spent without protection puts more Cameroonian lives at risk of deportation. The Biden-Harris administration must work to dismantle the anti-Black sentiments within the immigration system.
- Routing out anti-Black and discriminatory policies is how we fix our immigration system and keep families together. The unwillingness to designate Cameroon for TPS despite an “ongoing armed conflict” – a statutory qualifying factor for a TPS designation – that has killed more than 4,000 and displaced more than 700,000 civilians raises concerns about the underlying reasons. There should be no hesitation; TPS must be issued for Cameroon.
- Since 2014, Cameroon’s far north has been in conflict with Boko Haram, adding thousands of more deaths and displaced. Government security forces and separatists have also faced accusations of attacking schools, raiding villages, burning homes and arbitrarily arresting and killing dozens of civilians, according to local and international NGOs.
- Cameroonians in the U.S. are vital to our country’s workforce and local communities. They have deep roots in our nation and work hard for their families and local communities. Tearing them away from their families and neighborhoods so they can be deported to a country where there is no safety or refuge is simply wrong.
- Designating Cameroon for TPS will free up resources to tackle the years-long visa backlog.
- Cameroon is facing at least three separate armed conflicts or humanitarian crises affecting nearly all of the country’s ten regions. Besides the 2016 internal conflict overtaking much of the northwest and southwest of the country, forces have been battling Boko Haram since 2014 in the far north, and a refugee crisis in the east is growing near the Central African Republic, with an additional 1.5 million people internally displaced.
- Cameroon is one of the top 5 countries granted asylum in the U.S. Between 2001 and 2021, almost 70% of Cameroonians who applied for asylum were found eligible. That average holds even after taking into account the Trump administration’s 26% reduction in Cameroonian approvals between 2017 and 2021. With a backlog of over 1 million cases overall in the immigration courts, and 9 million at USCIS, the most prudent approach would be to designate Cameroon for TPS so that the courts and USCIS could shift focus to the highest priority cases.
- Deporting Cameroonians who are already in the U.S. breaks President Biden’s campaign promises and immigration blueprint. President Biden and Vice President Harris campaigned on keeping families together – a value at the core of their blueprint to manage migration and fix our broken immigration system. Issuing TPS for Cameroon is not only the right thing to do, but also morally and economically smart.
- Deporting Cameroonians also puts the U.S. in direct conflict with U.S. law and the 1951 Refugee and 1984 Torture Conventions because they are knowingly being returned to likely persecution, torture or other serious human rights violations.
- Last week, Human Rights Watch issued a report documenting that 13 of the estimated 80 to 90 Cameroonians deported on flights in late 2020 were tortured, physically or sexually abused, or assaulted by state agents. Cameroonian authorities targeted the families of deported people. In seven cases HRW documented, state agents beat, abducted, detained, harassed, and in one case reportedly killed, relatives in connection with deportees’ returns.
- Current conditions in Cameroon make safe return to Cameroon impossible. Cameroonians recently deported from the United States have suffered persecution and other serious human rights violations post-return. Last week, Human Rights Watch issued a report documenting Cameroonians deported from the US were tortured, physically or sexually abused, or assaulted by state agents, and were detained in jails, prisons, military camps, or other detention facilities, both legal and illegal, for periods ranging from days to months. Nearly all described squalid detention conditions with little to no food, medical care, sanitation, or protection from Covid-19.
- Perpetrators included police, gendarmes, and military personnel, among other officials and state agents. Armed separatists also beat at least one deported person and threatened the relatives of others.
- Cameroonian authorities also targeted the families of deported people. In seven cases HRW documented, State agents beat, abducted, detained, harassed, and in one case reportedly killed, relatives in connection with deportees’ returns.