If you care about Ukraine, read this…

Stringer+via+Reuters.

Stringer via Reuters.

This opinion piece’s purpose is not to compare nor invalidate any part of the Russo-Ukrainian War. Rather, the purpose of this piece is to highlight the following: The media’s role in framing world conflicts, race in migration, and the United States’ hypocrisy and double standards. These topics are much more extensive and I encourage further reading into them.

The Media is Guilty

The American media portrayal is heavily based on the Cold War conflict, where the United States, The Soviet Union (present-day Russia), and their respective allies had increased tensions. The Cold War is also referred to as the “bloodless” war. What that really means is that blood was shed in the global south. Thousands of deaths in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Sudan, The Democratic Republic of Congo, and many other nations

Francisco Cantú’s memoir, The Line Becomes A River, outlines the way the media portrays the migrant deaths on the U.S.-Mexico border. These metaphors are easily translated to other conflicts around the world. 

“Jane Zavisca, a cultural sociologist…surveyed ten years’ worth of reporting to determine the most common metaphors used by journalists when writing about migrant deaths.”

  • Economic – Migrant deaths are characterized as a “cost, calculation, or gamble”. Death is a foreseeable and calculable risk. “Suggest[s] that migrants bear some responsibility for their own death”
  • Violent – Death is the revenge of an angry desert or the casualty of war. Deaths are blamed on “uncontrollable” circumstances like the weather or policy. 
  • Dehumanizing – Migrants are dehumanized and depicted as animals to be hunted, while reinforcing the humanity of border patrol and characterizing them as “saviors”.
  • “An undifferentiated mass” (Otto Santa Ana, a sociolinguist at the University of California)

Race in Refugees and Migration

Emotional stories of Ukrainian refugees entering other European countries and the United States touched the hearts of so many Americans. But the haunting reports of the treatment of immigrants in detention centers and their experiences crossing the desert do not seem to garner the same media attention or sympathy.

Stringer via Reuters.

Stories circulate of Ukrainian families who have entered the U.S. through Mexico and are greeted at the ports of entry and granted a stay in the U.S. I was immediately perplexed as to why they are welcomed with open arms and not separated and put in cages like so many other refugees from South and Central America are

 

 

 

 

Other news stories reported that European nations, hailed for their support of Ukrainian refugees, did not allow Black Ukrainians to enter the country.

The United States and European nations continue to act under this assumption: if immigrants and refugees aren’t white, they are not welcomed.  “Our government has set up a system that works for white supremacy and against Black, brown, and [Asian Pacific Island] immigrants,” said Allen Morris, senior policy and government affairs strategist for the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.

Immigration lawyers working at the U.S.-Mexico border have been vocal about the visible differences in the treatment of Ukrainian refugees. Erika Pinheiro, policy and litigation director with the advocacy group Al Otro Lado, said, “I have never worked with a population of refugees that have more resources than the Ukrainians.”

The Hypocrisy and Double Standards

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 14) states everyone has the right to seek asylum from persecution in other countries. But in addition to the complex and rigid immigration policy the United States has in place, Title 42 came into play under the Donald Trump administration as a response to COVID-19

Title 42 expulsions “prohibit the entry of persons who potentially pose a health risk by being subject to previously-announced travel restrictions or because by unlawfully entering the country to bypass health-screening measures.” Under Title 42 the U.S. has deported nearly two million asylum seekers since March 2020. U.S. Customs and Border Protection can turn away any persons seeking asylum, but Ukrainians are exempt.

Many individuals may jump in now and say that Ukrainians are seeking refuge from war, and this is why they should be prioritized. Is this not true for Central American migrants as well? Countries in Latin America suffer from extreme gang violence, poverty, and military dictatorship. All as valid to seek refugee status as war. Not to mention, the United States’ hand in creating the instability that Latin Americans flee from is largely unadvertised by mainstream media.

We see Russia as the big oppressor, bombing a country and killing thousands. But are we not the same enemy? Do we not also bomb countries, and have for decades? We bomb countries overseas rather than a country 0 km away and build walls across those that are 0 km away. We instigate a flood of instability in our southern neighbors and when they start to leak, we build walls to keep the flood on the other side.

We have now seen how the world was able to mobilize for the Russo-Ukrainian War, and how the United States has the ability to quickly process large numbers of migrant cases. Overdue attention to non-white conflicts and refugees should be expected, and the world will be watching.

 

More information about Ukraine’s ongoing war and other conflicts around the world:

Adolfo Flores’ “Ukrainians Are Getting Special Treatment At The US Border That Other Asylum-Seekers Fleeing Violence Aren’t, Immigration Lawyers Say” (U.S.-Mexico border)

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ukraine)

Council on Foreign Relations (Ukraine)

United Nations Refugee Agency (Global)

Concern Worldwide U.S. (Global)