The Board of Supervisors this week adopted a motion formally condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine and urging federal elected leaders to take steps ensuring support and protection of Ukrainian immigrants and refugees.
“We must condemn this unprovoked and unjustified war of aggression by the Russian military against Ukraine, assist any Ukrainian-Americans in Los Angeles County who have been impacted by this crisis, and offer our support to refugees fleeing the violence,” said the motion’s author Supervisor Janice Hahn.
The motion specifically calls for a letter signed by all five county supervisors to be sent to Anatoly Antonov, Russian ambassador to the United States, urging the Russian government to immediately begin peace talks to resolve the conflict.
It also calls for another five-signature letter to be sent to President Joe Biden and members of the county’s congressional delegation asking that temporary protected status be provided for Ukrainian nationals in the United States and providing support for relatives of Ukrainian-Americans to relocate to the U.S.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger, with support from Hahn, amended the motion to request that the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association divest any Russian holdings, and asked the county CEO to report back in two weeks on the possibility of canceling county contracts with companies that do business in Russia.
Gov. Gavin Newsom this week sent a letter to the leaders of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, and the University of California Retirement System calling for the state to leverage its sizable global investment portfolio to sanction the Russian government. The combined assets of these entities amount to $970 billion—equivalent to 60 percent of Russia’s gross domestic product last year. More than $1.5 billion of these California investments are held in various financial instruments linked to Russia’s financial markets.
“Russia’s brazen and lawless military assault on Ukraine demands our support for the Ukrainian people and exacting an immediate and severe cost upon the Russian government,” Newsom wrote.
In a related development, Nigeria and South Africa have scrambled to assist Black residents to evacuate as they were reportedly left stranded or barred from boarding transportation in favor of White residents.
While Poland–where thousands of evacuees are headed–and Ukraine have both denied the reported racism, the outcry has specifically come from the African community, with many sharing their situations on social media and with news outlets.
The situation is unfolding under the hashtag #AfricansinUkraine. Korrine Sky, a British-Zimbabgwean medical student who lives in Ukraine, fled to Romania where she shared on Instagram the segregation she said she witnessed.
“There’s been a lot of segregation and racism from the people who’ve managed to actually get to the passport control. It seems there is a hierarchy of Ukranians first, Indians second, Africans last,” she explained.
Al Jazeera interviewed multiple African students, including Somto Orah who told the media outlet they’ve received “no support from any government authorities.” France24 interviewed several people regarding the situation, including Moustapha Bagui Sylla, a student from Guinea.
“They stopped us at the border and told us that Blacks were not allowed. But we could see White people going through,” Bagui Sylla told the news outlet. “The border guards told us they were taking orders from the Polish.”