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Goldman: Ukraine refugees prompt question: Who is a 'deserving migrant'?

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Goldman: Ukraine refugees prompt question: Who is a 'deserving migrant'?

Mo Goldman is a Tucson attorney specializing in immigration law.

Who is the deserving migrant?

Is it the migrant fleeing MS-13 gangs and economic oppression in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America? Not our problem.

Is it the migrant coming to the United States to seek safety from political and other forms of persecution in Africa? Not our problem.

Is it the migrant or immigrant who intends to reunite with her family through a relative-based petition? Not our problem.

Is it the migrant who was forcibly displaced because of tyrannical actions beyond their control, like what we are seeing in Ukraine and in other places around the world? Not our problem.

Is it the immigrants (both documented and undocumented) who work tirelessly, every day, on behalf of U.S. businesses to the benefit of the majority of our citizens? Not our problem.

Reality check: These are all our problems and we need to figure out a practical way to solve them. We are all impacted by these issues in one form or another.

I've been getting calls and emails the past week from many who want to help their "deserving" migrant friends and family members from the Ukraine. I am asked questions such as, "Why is this so damn difficult?" or "Can't I get them a visa to the U.S. or bring them to the border and have them ask for asylum? They deserve our protection!" I've also heard some harsh and racially motivated comments such as, "These Ukrainians are deserving of our protection, unlike those south of the border."

I just shake my head in disgust when I hear this sort of rhetoric.

It has again magnified the problem with U.S. immigration policies and the constant struggle with people thinking that their specific migrant/immigrant is more deserving of a chance for security than another.

After more than 20 years of working with immigrants from all over the world, I fully believe that all migrants and immigrants warrant a fair shake at protection.

Right now, we are still contending with many restrictions on migrants and immigrants that were put into place over the past several decades. While the Trump administration was the most xenophobic and restrictive in recent memory, there have been numerous battles waged to try and curb the flow of immigrants that predate his time as president. These restrictions, including the enactment of Title 42 (migrant expulsion based on the pandemic) and the nefarious Migrant Protection Protocols — which both were utilized as a pretext to stop the flow of migrants seeking safety on the southern border — are now adversely impacting Ukrainians who make it to the southern border and want to cross.

Whether it is the war raging in the Ukraine, the displacement of Afghans, migrants fleeing a litany of problems in Central America or anywhere else in the world, we need to understand the root cause of U.S. imperialism in causing many of these problems.

We should be propping each other up, not holding each other down. The United States has significant resources to protect migrants and give them a new life and a chance to succeed. Our tax-fueled expenditures on militarizing or attempting to barricade the southern border could be used to help integrate a new, diverse group of migrants. Most of us know at least one or several "deserving" migrants and immigrants.

You cannot pick or choose which immigrant or migrant is more deserving. Every immigrant deserves a fair process and an opportunity to be heard. If you support displaced Ukrainians, you should be supporting a system that provides this opportunity for any immigrant.

What can you do? Speak up! This is the time to use your voice. People like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert are loud and obnoxious, but they are not the majority. We need to have a unifying voice against xenophobia. Don't sit idly by while millions are being displaced, trafficked or dying. Call, email and voice your disgust with our current immigration policies to our elected representatives. It is well past time to stop building walls and build more bridges to safety.

All migrants are deserving.

Mo Goldman is a Tucson attorney specializing in immigration law.

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