The Russian invasion of Ukraine has displaced millions of people. Over the last few weeks, over 2000 Ukrainians have sought refuge in the United States, making their way through Mexico. However, the process of admitting the refugees from Ukraine has been much faster and easier than the ordeals facing asylum seekers from Latin America. In particular, Ukrainian refugees are granted exemptions from a rule introduced by the Trump Administration known as Title 42, which allows immigration control to reject incoming refugees on the grounds that they pose a Covid-related health risk.
Biden increased the cap for all refugees from the 15,000 set by Trump to 125,000 for the year 2022. In March, his administration announced that the U.S. would accept 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. Yet refugees from Latin America are detained for months in horrible conditions while Ukrainian refugees typically wait less than a day before they cross the border. In addition, while awaiting an expedited asylum process, most Ukrainian refugees at the southern border have access to much better shelters, with sleeping pads, toilets, showers, clothing, cooked meals, security and even a playground for children.
Why are Ukrainians rushed into the U.S. and provided with decent shelters when so many immigrants from Latin America are sent back to the life-threatening conditions they fled from, or forced to wait in dangerous shelters under horrible conditions? Besides the obvious racist discrimination, there is also political hypocrisy behind this. The U.S. ruling class is taking a stance against its Eastern rival – Russia. This means supporting Ukraine and accepting their refugees. Most of these refugees are expected to return to Ukraine after the war is over anyway. In other words, allowing Ukrainian refugees into the U.S. is good public relations at a low cost for the rulers of the United States.
Granting asylum to people fleeing dangerous and unlivable conditions in Latin America is a different story. On the one hand, the U.S. capitalists need cheap labor. Where else are they going to get people to do the most difficult and dangerous jobs for such low pay? This is why some immigration is allowed.
On the other hand, the racist fear of immigrants that is constantly stoked by right-wing politicians is very useful for the capitalists as well. It channels the anger of U.S. workers towards foreign workers, keeping it away from the real source of our problems: the very capitalist system itself, which relies on exploitation and violence to accumulate wealth. Those who run this society have always used racism, nationalism and xenophobia to pit one group of workers against another. Migrants are falsely accused of taking jobs away from U.S. citizens when the real culprits are the owners of giant corporations, who chase the cheapest labor costs all over the globe while taking advantage of lower paid immigrant workers in this country. It is largely due to the profit-squeezing of the capitalists that there are not enough jobs in the U.S., even though there is plenty of work to be done and understaffing at almost every workplace.
And let us not forget what causes people to flee their countries and seek jobs in the U.S. It is the capitalists who enact disastrous trade deals like NAFTA that devastate the economy of other countries, increasing immigration. It is the capitalists who are responsible for climate change, which causes tens of millions more to be displaced globally due to intense drought and extreme weather. It is the capitalists who’ve propped up violent regimes in Latin America, and who’ve relied on war and militarism in order to ransack Latin American nations in their endless pursuit of profit, causing instability and conflict wherever they do so.
The difference in immigration policy towardsl refugees from Ukraine and those from Latin America shows the total hypocrisy of the United States’ ruling class.