The 27-year old, who fled Cameroon in the midst of its ongoing conflict, cannot help but wonder what might happen if the millions fleeing this Eastern European nation were of a different color.
The U.S. is preparing to receive tens, of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing conflict. However, scores of African and Caribbean refugees are being deported back to their unstable and violent homelands, where they have been subject to rape and torture.
The Columbus resident stated that U.S. politicians are not interested in Black men. The difference is very clear. They are aware of what's happening and have chosen to shut their eyes and ears.
Tebah's concerns echo protests about the rapid expulsions of Haitian refugeecrossing the frontier this summer without a chance for asylum. Not to mention the frosty reception African, Middle Eastern refugees have received in western Europe compared to how those countries have enthusiastically welcomed displaced Ukrainians.
In March, President Joe Biden made several announcements welcoming 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, and granting Temporary Protected status to another 33,000 already living in the U.S. Two Democratic legislators seized the opportunity to demand similar humanitarian considerations for Haitians, after halting Ukrainian deportations.
"There is every reason for the same level of compassion," U.S. Reps. Ayanna Jones of Massachusetts and Mondaire James of New York wrote to the administration . They noted that more than 20,000 Haitians were deported despite continuing instability following the assassination and a strong earthquake this summer.
Cameroonian activists have also stepped up their demands for humanitarian aid, protesting at the Washington residence Alejandro Mayorkas, Homeland Security Secretary, and offices of top members of Congress this month.
These calls are coming as hundreds of thousands in Cameroon have been forced to flee by the country’s civil war, which has seen its French-speaking government fighting against English-speaking separatists and attacks by Boko Haram, and other regional conflicts.
In a February report by Human Rights Watch, it was found that many Cameroonians who were deported from the U.S. suffered persecution upon their return.
Tebah is a leader member of Cameroon American Council. This advocacy group organized protests this month.
He hails from the English-speaking northwest of the country and was arrested by the government for his activism as a college student. Tebah claimed that he was able to flee to Latin America and trek overland to the U.S. border to seek asylum in 2019, as many Cameroonians did.
He said, "I will be kept in prison, tortured, and even killed if deported." "I am very afraid. My life is important as a human."
The Department of Homeland Security oversees TPS as well as other humanitarian programs. It declined to address the allegations of racism in American immigration policies. It declined to answer whether it was considering granting TPS to Cameroonians, or other African nationals. Instead, it stated in writing that it would "continue monitoring conditions in different countries."
However, the agency pointed out that TPS designations have been issued to Haiti, Somalia and Sudan, all African or Caribbean countries, as well as to over 75,000 Afghans who are now living in the U.S. following the Taliban takeover. With more than 40,000 people currently in the TPS status, Haitians are the largest and longest-tenured beneficiaries.
Burma is also a TPS country.
Lisa Parisio, the founder of Catholics Against Racism in Immigration, argues that the program could help protect millions more refugees fleeing persecution but has been historically underused and overpoliticized.
TPS, which gives you a work permit that prevents deportation for up 18 months, isn't limited in terms of the number of countries or people that can be on it. Parisio, the advocacy director for Catholic Legal Immigration Network, stated that TPS doesn't limit the number of people and countries you can place on it.
In his wider efforts to limit immigration, Trump had previously reduced TPS and allowed designations for Liberia Sierra Leone, Guinea in West Africa, and Guinea to expire.
TPS programs provide crucial protections for vulnerable refugees but they can also leave many people in legal limbo over years without providing any pathway to citizenship. Karla Morales, an El Salvadoran 24-year-old who has been on TPS almost her entire life, stated that although TPS programs such as TPS are vital, they can also lead to many people being left in legal limbo.
The University of Massachusetts Boston student in nursing said, "It's absurd for 20 years in the country to be temporary." "We need to be able to see that our efforts are appreciated and that we have value in this world."
Maria Cristina Garcia, a Cornell University history professor, suggested that Biden seems motivated by larger foreign policy goals in Europe in the case of Ukraine. She was primarily concerned with refugees and immigrants.
Tom Wong, the U.S. Immigration Policy Center's founder, stated that the racial disparities could not be more obvious.
He said that the U.S. had responded immediately by providing humanitarian protections for predominately European refugees and whites. "Predominantly African, Middle East and Asian peoples of color continue to languish."
Immigrant advocates argue that Cameroon and Ethiopia, along with Cameroon should be eligible for humanitarian aid due to their ongoing conflicts. Mauritania should also be considered since slavery is still a practice there.
They complain that Ukrainian asylum seekers are being exempted from the asylum limits designed to stop the spread of COVID-19, while others are being turned down.
Sylvie Bello, the founder of the D.C.-based Cameroon American Council, says that "Black pain and Black suffering don't get the same attention." American immigration policy is influenced by the same anti-Blackness as American life.
Vera Arnot is a Boston Ukrainian woman who is thinking about applying for TPS. She says that she wasn't familiar with the special status before the war began and didn't understand the concerns of immigrants of color. The Berklee College of Music sophomore hopes that relief will be extended to other countries.
Arnot believes that TPS could assist her in finding an off-campus job at a higher pay rate so she doesn’t need to rely on her family. Most people in Ukraine have lost their jobs as a result of the war.
She stated that Ukrainians as a nation are not used to relying upon others. We want to work. "We don't want welfare."
Tebah, who lives with Ohio relatives, would be able to open a bank, obtain a driver's licence, and find better work while awaiting a decision on his asylum application.
Tebah stated, "We will continue to beg, plead," "We are in danger. It is important that I emphasize this. Only TPS for Cameroon can help us get out of this danger. It is vital."