Multicultural News

Burmese Hoosiers eligible for asylum amid Myanmar military coup

INDIANANAPOLIS (WISH) — The death toll is rising in Myanmar as the military there takes further control, and the Indiana Burmese community is doing what it can to save lives.

The Department of Homeland Security is designating Myanmar –formerly Burma — with temporary protected status. That means Burmese citizens already in the U.S. will be able to stay here for a bit longer. But to qualify, you’ll have to apply. The Burmese American Community Institute has put together a team to help get it done.

Myanmar is on the verge a democratic collapse. Since February, the military has held control of the newly democratic country, and that hold isn’t letting up. Instead, it’s costing hundreds of lives.

“It’s going to get worse if we don’t act right now. And I know this is a huge challenge; it is not going to be easy,” said Elaisa Vahnie, BACI executive director.

The Burmese population in America: 300,000. Indiana’s Burmese population is about 30,000, many with family living still living in Myanmar. Every day, many are left wondering if their families are safe and alive.

“They have killed, as we speak, nearly 600 people including children and women.”

BACI has been looking to U.S. legislators to step in. The Department of Homeland Security designated Myanmar with a temporary protected status. So Burmeses citizens in the country without work or school visas can apply for an 18-month asylum.

To help get more people signed up, BACI has a team of volunteers and pro-bono attorneys. Vahnie said the Biden administration has also declared a national emergency, adding that the unrest in Burma could have negative implications globally.

“The international community has a responsibility to protect civilian people who are dying at the hands of this brutal military. If we don’t protect we will see more lives lost,” he said.

The agency will continue calling on the international community to step up and help, too, out of fear if the military holds control for much longer, Myanmar could face another genocide.