House Judiciary Dems Urge DHS to Designate Cameroon for Temporary Protected Status

July 30, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Representatives Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Chair of the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, and Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, today led their Democratic House Judiciary Committee colleagues in urging the Biden Administration to designate Cameroon for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) as swiftly as possible.

“For the tens of thousands of Cameroonians in the United States who are at risk of extreme violence, death, and displacement if forced to return to their home country, urgent action is imperative,” wrote the lawmakers.

Currently, TPS-designated countries include Burma (Myanmar), El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.

In the letter, the Members point to Section 244(b)(1)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which permits the Secretary of Homeland Security to designate a country for TPS if there is an “ongoing armed conflict” such that the return of nationals to that country would “pose a serious threat to their personal safety.”

They conclude that, “Cameroon—which is in the midst of multiple catastrophic armed conflicts—is clearly eligible for a TPS designation pursuant to INA § 244(b)(1)(A).”

The full letter follows and can be downloaded here.

The Honorable Alejandro Mayorkas
Secretary                                            
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528                      

Dear Secretary Mayorkas:

As Members of the House Judiciary Committee, we write to express our deep concern about the devastating humanitarian situation in Cameroon.  As a result of ongoing and deadly armed conflicts across the country that have cost thousands of lives and left an estimated 4.4 million people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, we ask that you take immediate steps to designate Cameroon for Temporary Protected Status (TPS).[1]  For the tens of thousands of Cameroonians in the United States who are at risk of extreme violence, death, and displacement if forced to return to their home country, urgent action is imperative.[2]

TPS is a temporary form of protection created by Congress to provide a haven for foreign nationals in the United States who come from countries that are experiencing certain types of humanitarian crises.  Section 244(b)(1)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) permits the Secretary of Homeland Security to designate a country for TPS if there is an “ongoing armed conflict” such that the return of nationals to that country would “pose a serious threat to their personal safety.”[3]  Cameroon—which is in the midst of multiple catastrophic armed conflicts—is clearly eligible for a TPS designation pursuant to INA § 244(b)(1)(A).

Since late 2016, conflict between the government and armed separatists have displaced nearly 1 million people in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon,[4] and a recent escalation of these conflicts has increased civilian deaths to 4,000.[5]  In the Far North region, Boko Haram continues to terrorize communities that do not share its apocalyptic worldview, including by using child soldiers in suicide bombings of schools, mosques, and refugee camps.[6]  Further, the Department of State recently catalogued an extensive record of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions, torture, and targeted violence against marginalized populations by Cameroonian authorities in response to the conflicts.[7]

Conditions in Cameroon have been worsened in recent years by other events.  Since 2017, approximately 350,000 refugees have entered the eastern part of Cameroon, the majority of which have fled the catastrophic civil war in the Central African Republic[8]  Due to this influx of refugees and the ongoing armed conflicts, an estimated 1.1 million Cameroonians faced severe acute food insecurity in 2020.[9]  The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the crisis in Cameroon and extreme weather coupled with the violence have degraded infrastructure and delayed the delivery of humanitarian aid and pandemic relief.[10]  Thus, it is no surprise that the number of Cameroonians currently in need of humanitarian assistance has increased by 1.7 million since 2015,[11] and that the number of displaced persons living in Cameroon now stands at 1.8 million, a 58% increase since 2018.[12]

An estimated 40,000 Cameroonians living in the United States cannot return home to these devastating conditions and are in desperate need of a lifeline.  We strongly urge you to designate Cameroon for TPS as swiftly as possible. 

Sincerely,

 

[1] Alessandra Parker, Congress: Addressing the Crisis in Cameroon, Borgen Mag. (Apr. 4, 2021), https://www.borgenmagazine.com/crisis-in-cameroon/.
[2] Backgrounder: Temporary Protected Status for Cameroon 2021, Catholic Legal Immigrant Network (CLINIC), (Jan. 2021), https://cliniclegal.org/resources/humanitarian-relief/temporary-protected-status-and-deferred-enforced-departure-4
[3] INA § 244(b)(1)(a), 8 U.S.C. § 1254a(b)(1)(a).
[4] Statement on Temporary Protected Status for Cameroon, RFK Human Rights (June 2021), https://rfkhumanrights.org/news/statement-on-temporary-protected-status-for-cameroon.
[5] Jess Craig, Violence in Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis Takes High Civilian Toll, Al Jazeera (Apr. 1, 2021), https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/4/1/violence-in-cameroon-anglophone-crisis-takes-high-civilian-toll.
[6] Statement on Temporary Protected Status for Cameroon, supra note 4.
[7] Cameroon 2020 Human Rights Report, U.S. Dept. of State (Mar. 2021), https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/cameroon/.
[8] European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations: Cameroon, European Commission (June 18, 2020), https://ec.europa.eu/echo/printpdf/where/africa/cameroon_en.
[9] Cameroon 2020 Humanitarian Response Plan, United Nations Food and Agriculture Org. (FAO) (Feb. 7, 2020), http://www.fao.org/emergencies/appeals/detail/en/c/1260440/
[10]Statement on Temporary Protected Status for Cameroon, supra note 4.
[11] As of June 2021, UNOCHA estimated that there were 4.4 million Cameroonians in need of humanitarian assistance, as compared with only 2.7 million in December 2015. See “Cameroon: Humanitarian Dashboard, January to March 2021,” U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Jun. 2021); “Cameroun: Plan de Réponse Humanitaire 2016,” U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Dec. 2015).
[12] Cameroon 2020 Human Rights Report, supra note 7.
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