U.S. Adopts Confusing New Program for Resettling Certain Foreigners

On January 19, the Biden Administration announced an additional program for the resettlement of certain foreigners, i.e., “refugees,” in the U.S. that directly will involve U.S. citizens, acting through the State Department’s U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). This new program seeks to resettle refugees from Latin America and the Caribbean with the assistance of Americans “ranging from members of faith and civic groups, veterans, diaspora communities, businesses, colleges and universities, and more.” [1]

This new program already has its own website—Welcome Corps–which says that  more than 200 diverse organizations are signaling their support and that Americans will “work in groups of at least five  to welcome newcomers by securing and preparing initial housing, greeting refugee newcomers at the airport, enrolling children in school, and helping adults to find employment.” Most importantly, the individuals in these citizen groups will “offer a sense of welcome, belonging, and inclusion for families.”

The “Welcome Corps” website also describes its training program for “providing core private sponsoring services (e.g., housing, benefits and services access, cultural adjustment, etc.) and an overview of how to help facilitate the long-term integration of refugees, . . . the logistics of forming a Private Sponsor Group, fundraising, developing a Welcome Plan, and resiliency-building.” This training must be completed by at least one member of the Private Sponsor Group.”

Who Will Be Welcomed by the Welcome Corps? [2]

The initial Corps materials repeatedly use the word “refugee” to identify the foreigners it will be seeking to help relocate in the U.S. Those same materials also refer to  Latin Americans, Caribbeans, Afghans and Ukrainians as people they want to welcome to the U.S. Those are certainly laudatory goals.

But not all of those groups have been determined to meet the legal requirements for  “refugee” status under international and U.S. law as shown by the following:

  • International Law. On April 22, 1954, the international Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees went into force and became a binding treaty after its ratification or accession by the sixth state. Then after its amendment by the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees that went into effect on October 4, 1967, the international definition of “refugee” was the following: Any person who “owing to well- founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who,not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”

(Excluded from that international definition of “refugee” was “any person . . . [who] (a) . has committed a crime against peace, a war crime or a crime against humanity . . . ; (b) . . .          has committed a serious non-political crime outside the country of refuge prior to his admission to that country as a refugee; [and] (c) . . . has been guilty of acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the [U.N.].”)

  • U.S. Law. The U.S. did not ratify the previously mentioned Protocol (and by incorporation the previously mentioned Convention) until November 1, 1968, and 12 years later the U.S. finally adopted the implementing federal legislation (the Refugee Act of 1980), which defines “refugee” as follows: “any person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, is outside any country in which such person last habitually resided, and who is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of, that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” That federal statute also provided, “The term ‘refugee’ does not include any person who ordered, incited, assisted, or otherwise participated in the persecution of any person on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

It must also be noted that this last Session of Congress failed to enact the Afghan Adjustment Act, which would have provided some temporary legal protection for Afghan evacuees who have not been determined to be “refugees.”[3]

Conclusion

It is utterly dumbfounding that the Departments of State and Homeland Security could erroneously use the important legal concept of “refugee” in this  matter of foreign policy.

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111 State Dep’t, Launch of the Welcome Corps—Private Sponsorship of Refugees (Jan. 19,2023); State Dep’t, U.S.  Refugee Admissions Program, (Jan. 19, 2023);  Welcome Corps Website, State Dep’t, U.S.  Refugee Admissions Program, (Jan. 19,2023); 200+ Organizations Signal Support for the Welcome Corps, New Service, Opportunities for Private Refugee SponsorshipThe Welcome Corps Essentials Training, Jordan, Biden Administration Invites Ordinary Americans to Help Settle Refugees, N.Y. Times (Jan. 19, 2023); Santana, (AP), Welcome Corps provides a new way for Americans to sponsor refugees, Ch. Sci. Monitor (Jan. 19, 2023).

[2] Refugee and Asylum Law: The Modern Era, dwkcommentaries.com (July 9, 2011); Refugee and Asylum Law: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, dwkcommentaries.com (July 10, 2011); Weissbrodt, Ni Aolain, Fitzpatrick & Newman, International Human Rights: Law, Policy, and Process at 1040-42 (4th ed. 2009).

[3] Need To Prod Congress to Enact the Afghan Adjustment Act, dwkcommentaries.com (Dec. 17, 2022); Apparent Failure To Enact Bipartisan Immigration Bills, dwkcommentaries.com (Dec. 18, 2022); Congress Fails to Adopt Important Immigration Bills, dwkcommentaries.com (Dec. 28, 2022).

 

 

 

 

U.S. Procedures for Resettlement of Ukrainians

“On April 21, 2022, President Biden announced Uniting for Ukraine, a new streamlined process to provide Ukrainian citizens who have fled Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression opportunities to come to the United States. This represents a key step toward fulfilling the President’s commitment to welcome Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

“Uniting for Ukraine builds on the robust humanitarian assistance the U.S. government is providing as we complement the generosity of countries throughout Europe that are hosting millions of Ukrainian citizens and others who have been displaced.”

To that end, on or about April 21, 2022, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USC&IS) “announced a key step toward fulfilling President Biden’s commitment to welcome Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion. Uniting for Ukraine provides a pathway for Ukrainian citizens and their immediate family members who are outside the United States to come to the United States and stay temporarily in a 2 year period of parole. Ukrainians participating in Uniting for Ukraine must have a supporter in the United States who agrees to provide them with financial support for the duration of their stay in the United States.”[1]

Financial Supporter[2]

“The first step in the Uniting for Ukraine process is for the U.S.-based supporter to file a Form I-134, Declaration of Financial Support, with USCIS. The U.S. government will then vet the supporter to ensure that they are able to financially support the individual whom they agree to support.”

The qualifications for such a supporter is “An individual who holds lawful status in the United States or is a parolee or beneficiary of deferred action or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) who has passed security and background vetting and demonstrated sufficient financial resources to receive, maintain, and supports the individuals whom they commit to support for the duration of their stay in the United States.”

Eligible Ukrainians[3]

Beneficiaries of such support are those who meet the following requirements:

  • “Resided in Ukraine immediately prior to the Russian invasion (until February 11, 2022) and were displaced as a result of the invasion;”
  • “Are a Ukrainian citizen and possess a valid Ukrainian passport (or are a child included on a parent’s passport), or are a non-Ukrainian immediate family member of a Ukrainian citizen who is applying through Uniting for Ukraine;”
  • “Have a supporter who filed a Form I-134, Declaration of Financial Support, on their behalf that has been confirmed as sufficient by USCIS;”
  • “Complete vaccinations and other public health requirements,” and;
  • “Clear biometric and biographic screening and vetting security checks.”
  • “Immediate family members” in this process include: “the spouse or common-law partner of a Ukrainian citizen; and their unmarried children under the age of 21. NOTE: If a child is under 18, they must be traveling with a parent or legal guardian in order to use this process.”

Advocates for This Program[4]

Ilya Somin, a law professor at George Mason University, and his wife are sponsors of three Ukrainians (a husband and wife and their 2-year old daughter) , who arrived in the U.S. less than five weeks after the U.S. government had approved the Somins’ supporter papers. Somin and his wife learned of this new U.S. government program through Welcome Connect, a website that matches potential U.S.sponsors with Ukrainian refugees. As a result, Somin has become a strong advocate for this program.

He says that since April of 2022, at least 94,000 Ukrainians have entered the U.S. under this program. In contrast, the regular U.S. program for admission of refugees is “slow and burdensome” and admitted only 25,400 for all of fiscal 2022.

Nevertheless, Somin sees “two major shortcomings:”

  • “first, the residency and work permits last only two years. Experience shows that many refugees need permanent homes, not just temporary ones. Permanence also enables them to make greater economic and social contributions to our society.”
  • Second, the program is largely the result of executive discretion. If political winds shift and President Biden (or a successor) decides to terminate it, participants could be subject to deportation. Congress should pass legislation to permanently fix these flaws.”
  • Third, this program could be improved by further simplifying the paperwork. . . . Refugee-assistance charities should consider providing linguistic assistance to potential sponsors who don’t speak Russian or Ukrainian; they could potentially recruit volunteer interpreters from immigrant communities in the [U.S.]”

Observations

 This U.S. program for Ukrainians is praiseworthy, but ignores several caveats.

First, the Ukrainians are not “refugees,” as defined in international and U.S. law:  individuals who have been determined by government agencies to meet the legal requirements for such status: “any person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality, is outside any country in which such person last habitually resided, and who is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country  because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”(Emphasis added). [5]

U.N. organizations and the U.S. government have established legal procedures for determining whether an individual has proven that he or she meets these legal requirements for such status as a basis for asylum or other status. As a result, it takes longer to do that than it does for the simplified process for the Ukrainians. But now it takes much longer than it should due to huge demands for such relief and inadequate resources.

Second, the U.S.established a special program for Afghans who have fled their country and who come to the U.S. as evacuees (not refugees) with humanitarian parole or special immigrant visas of limited duration. This is similar to the new program for Ukrainians, and a bill (Afghan Adjustment Act) has been proposed to meet the special legal problems associated with this status. But as been discussed in this blog, that Afghan proposal failed to pass in the last Congress.[6]

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[1] U.S. Department of Homeland Security, President Biden to Announce Uniting with Ukraine, a New Streamlined Process to Welcome Ukrainians Fleeing Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine (April 21, 2022); U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Uniting for Ukraine (April 21, 2022);  U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services [USC&IS],  Uniting for Ukraine (April 21, 2022).

[2] Id.; Eligibility for Uniting with Ukraine.

[3] Id.

[4] Somin, We sponsored refugees under a new Biden program. The results were astonishing, Wash. Post (Jan. 3, 2023); Somin & El-Chidiac, Americans should be able to sponsor refugees tho can stay permanently, Wash. Post (July 18, 2022).

[5] Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 189 U.N.T.S. 137; 8 U.S.C. sec. 1101(a)(42);

[6] E.g., Congress Fails To Adopt Important Immigration Legislation, dwkcommentaries.com (Dec.  2022).

Congress Fails To Adopt Important Immigration Legislation

Previous posts documented Congress’ earlier failure this Session to adopt (a) the Afghan Adjustment Act to improve the legal status of Afghan evacuees in the U.S. and (b) important bipartisan immigration reform, one of which was offered by Senators Kyrsten Sinema (ex-Democrat & now Independent) and Thom Tillis (Rep., NC) that would have addressed the legal fate of so-called Dreamers and provided billions of dollars to secure the U.S. border with Mexico and improve processing of asylum claims.[1]

Nor were these failures rectified in the balance of the Session with its primary focus on what was known as the Omnibus bill, which is discussed below.

The Omnibus Bill[2]

On the evening of December 19, the 4,155 page Omnibus Bill was introduced in the Senate.  The bill provides $1.65 trillion to finance all of the federal government for the rest of fiscal 2023 (ending September 30, 2023). This includes $858 billion for defense, a 9.7% increase; $45 billion in new military and economic aid for Ukraine; new incentives for citizens’ retirement savings; increased funding for food stamps, heating assistance, Pell grants, Head Start, Child Care and Development Block Grant Program plus $40 billion in emergency spending (mostly to assist communities recovering from drought, hurricane and other natural disasters); and a ban on TikTok on government devices.

Other parts of this bill would make changes to Medicaid eligibility, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicare provider payments.

According to a Wall Street Journal editorial, this is the “ugliest omnibus bill ever” and “[m]ajor changes in law deserve their own debate and vote. Instead, a handful of powerful legislators wrote this vast bill in a backroom. Members can use the need to fund the government as an excuse to say they supported, or opposed, specific provisions as future politics demands.”

 Senate Approves the Omnibus Bill[3]

On the afternoon of December 22, the Senate passed the Omnibus bill, with a bipartisan vote of 68-29. It did so after that morning’s defeat of two proposed amendments to extend the so-called Title 42 to continue a legal ban on admission of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. One of these proposed amendments was offered by Senator Mike Lee (Rep., Utah), which was defeated 47-50; the other by Senator Sinema (Indep., Arizona) and Senator Tester (Dem., Montana), which was defeated with only 10 affirmative votes.

House Approves the Omnibus Bill[4]

The next day, December 23, the House approved the omnibus bill, as amended by the Senate, without any additional proposed immigration amendments, 225-201. The bill thus now will go to President Biden, who is expected to sign it in coming days.

Later on December 23 the 117th Congress adjourned and will terminate on January 3, 2023.

Litigation Over Continuation of Title 42[5]

 While these legislative machinations were going on, there was pending litigation over the continuation of Title 42, which had been adopted by the Trump Administration to allow migrants to be quickly expelled back to Mexico after illegally crossing the border into the U.S. in order to prevent the threat of further spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. and which was scheduled to expire on December 21.

After such litigation had been dismissed by lower federal courts, the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, and on December 19th Chief Justice John Roberts ordered a temporary ban against termination of Title 42 until the Supreme Court had acted on the issue.

Then on December 27, the Supreme Court, 5-4, issued an unsigned order that was supported by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas, Alito, Kavanaugh and Barrett. That order (a) granted the application for stay of the District Court order, pending certiorari, that had invalidated Title 42; (b) granted the applicants’ suggestion that its application be treated as a petition for a writ of certiorari; and (c) directed the parties  to brief and argue whether the State applicants may intervene to challenge the District Court’s summary judgment order. The Court added that this stay “precludes giving effect to the District Court order setting aside and vacating the title 42 policy,” but “does not prevent the federal government from taking any action with respect to that policy” and the Supreme Court “does not grant review of those merits, which have not yet been addressed by the Court of Appeals.”

This unsigned order then concluded by directing the Clerk “to establish a briefing schedule that will allow the case to be argued in the February 2023 argument session” and by stating that the Court’s “stay shall terminate upon the sending down of the judgment of this Court” and that the previous stay order by the Chief Justice is vacated.

Justices Sotomayor and Kagan, without opinion, stated that they would deny the application while Justices Gorsuch and Jackson dissented. The latter’s dissenting opinion stated as follows:

  • The Covid “emergency on which these orders were premised has long since lapsed.” The States which now are challenging the invalidation of title 42 “do not seriously dispute that the public-health justification undergirding the Title 42 orders has lapsed.”
  • These States also “contend that they face an immigration crisis at the border and policymakers have failed to agree on adequate measures to address it. . . . But the current border crisis is not a COVID crisis. And the courts should not be in the business of perpetuating administrative edicts designed for one emergency only because elected officials have failed to address a different emergency. We are a court of law, not policymers of last resort.”

Immediately after the issuance of this Supreme Court order, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre issued a statement that the U.S. government will “comply with the order and prepare for the Court’s review” while also “ advancing our preparations to manage the border in a secure, orderly, and humane way when title 42 eventually lifts and will continue expanding legal pathways for immigration. Title 42 is a public health measure, not an immigration enforcement measure, and it should not be extended indefinitely.”

The Press Secretary then shifted to the need for “Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform measures like the ones President Biden proposed on his first day in office.” Now “Republicans in Congress [have] plenty of time . . .[to] join their Democratic colleagues in solving the challenge at our border by passing the comprehensive reform measures and delivering the additional funds for border security that President Biden has requested.”

The Department of Homeland Security that same day issued a shorter, but similar statement.

Also that same day a Wall Street Journal editorial concluded that the Supreme Court’s order “gives the President more time to prepare for Title 42’s end. Whether he makes the most of it is a different matter, and the last two years don’t bode well.”

According to an Associated Press journalist, no one knows how asylum will work after an end to Title 42 with the “Biden Administration . . . conspicuously silent about how migrants who plan to claim [asylum] should enter the . . . [U.S.when Title 42 ends], fueling rumors, confusion and doubts about the government’s readiness despite more than two years to prepare. . . . Many expect the government to use CBPOne, an online  platform for appointment registration, . . . [but this may be] impractical for migrants without internet access or language skills. . . . [Moreover, once they are in the U.S., they are being given dates as far out as March 2024 just to complete initial processing. Then they have to contend with] “a court system that is backlogged by more than 2 million cases, resulting in waits of several years for judges to reach decisions” on asylum applications.

Prospects for Adoption of Immigration Reform in 2023 [6]

 The 118th Congress opens on January 3, 2023, with the Republicans having a small majority in the House of Representatives while the Democrats in the Senate will maintain their narrow control (51-49) with Vice President Harris’ ability to break ties when the filibuster rule requiring 60 votes is not invoked.

Indeed, a U.S. Justice Department brief of December 20 referred to “new policies tailored to the consequences of the end” of Title 42 and “a complex, multiagency undertaking with policy, operational, and foreign relations that has been paused or partially unwound in light of the administrative stay” of any such changes.

Advocates for the Afghan Adjustment Act “worry that . . . [this bill] will be dead in the water if pushed into a new session next year, when Republicans appear intent on scrutinizing the Biden administration over the chaotic Kabul evacuation. About 170 Afghans and 13 U.S. troops were killed in a suicide bombing during the operation. The United States killed 10 civilians in a botched drone strike days later.”

Contributing to this uncertainty will be the House Republicans pledge to investigate the Biden administration’s record on the southern border and to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Another problem would be responding to any court’s overturning the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that has granted legal status to millions of people who were brought illegally to the U.S. as children. Especially despondent about this possibility is Greisa Martinez Rosas, a DACA recipient and executive director of United We Dream, the nation’s largest youth-led immigrant network. When she thinks about “ the millions of young immigrants, including DACA recipients, who have had to live their lives in a perpetual state of limbo, I am filled with righteous anger, which I channel into action and a discipline of hope that we are working to create the conditions for us to win and to build the futures we deserve.”

Conclusion

Comments with corrections or additional thoughts on these complex  issues are welcomed.

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[1] Need to Prod Congress To Enact the Afghan Adjustment Act, dwkcommentaries.com (Dec. 17, 2022);

Apparent Failure of Bipartisan Immigration Reform Bill, dwkcommentaries.com (Dec.18, 2022).

[2] Freking, Lawmakers unveil $1.7T bill to avoid shutdown, boost Ukraine, Seattle Times (Dec. 20, 2022)..

[3] Romm, Senate approves $1.7 trillion omnibus bill to fund government, Wash. Post (Dec. 22, 2022); Hughes, Collins & Wise, Senate Passes $1.65 Trillion Omnibus Bill After Deal on Title 42 Votes, W.S.J. (Dec. 22, 2022); Cochrane, Senate Passes $1.7 Trillion Spending Bill, in Bid to Avert Government Shutdown, N.Y. Times (Dec. 22, 2022);

4/ Romm, House approves $1,7 trillion omnibus bill amid GOP objections, sending it to Biden, Wash.Post (Dec. 23, 2022).

[5] Federal judge strikes down Trump-era border policy known as title 42, Wash. Post (Nov. 15, 2022); Hackman & Wolfe, Judge Strikes Down Title 42, Used to Expel Asylum Seekers, W.S. J. (Nov. 15, 2022) ; Liptak, Chief Justice Roberts Briefly Halts Decision Benning Border Expulsions, N.Y. Times (Dec. 19, 2022); Marimow & Sacchetti, Chief Justice temporarily keeps pandemic-era Title 42 border policy in place, Wash. Post (Dec. 19, 2022); Hackman & Bravin, Supreme Court Temporarily Blocks Biden From Ending Trump-Era Border Policy, W.S.J. (Dec. 19, 2022);  Supreme Court blocks Biden from lifting Covid-era border restrictions, Guardian (Dec. 20, 2022); Spagat, How will asylum work after Title 42 ends? No one knows yet, Wash. Post (Dec. 20, 2022). Supreme Court, Order, Arizona v. Mayorkas, No. 22A544 (22-592) (Dec.27, 2022); Liptak, Jordan & Sullivan, Migrant Expulsion Policy Must Stay in Place for Now, Supreme Court Says, N.Y. Times (Dec. 27, 2022); Barnes & Marinow, Supreme Court leaves in place Title 42 border policy for now, Wash. Post (Dec. 27, 2022);Bravin & Hackman, Supreme Court Leaves Pandemic Border Controls in Place, W.S.J. (Dec. 27, 2022); White House, Statement by White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Supreme Court Title 42 Order (Dec. 27, 2022); Dep’t Homeland Security, Statement by the Department of Homeland Security on Supreme Court title 42 Order (Dec. 27, 2022); Sandoval, At a Crowded Border Camp in Mexico, Frustration and Shattered Hopes, N.Y. Times (Dec. 27, 2022).

[6] Spagat, How will asylum work after Title 42 ends? No one knows yet, abcnews.go.com (Dec. 20, 2022); Horton, Congress drops Afghan allies item, dimming evacuee hopes, Wash. Post (Dec. 20, 2022); Meyer & Caldwell, Why the Immigration debate is only going to get more tense, Wash. Post (Dec. 21, 2022); Rosas, Congress Has Once Again Failed Immigrant Youths, N.Y. Times (Dec. 22, 2022);

 

 

Apparent Failure of Bipartisan Immigration Reform Bill 

Minneapolis’ StarTribune published an editorial criticizing the apparent failure of Congress to pass a bipartisan immigration reform bill. A similar editorial appeared in Bloomberg News. The bill also was supported by columnist George Will.[1]

The Bipartisan Bill

The bill was developed by U.S. Senators Kyrsten Sinema (ex-Democrat & now Independent, AZ) and Thom Tillis (Rep., NC) “that would have addressed critical areas in immigration: the fate of so-called Dreamers, billions of dollars to secure the southern border, and better processing of asylum claims.” The “border-related items in the . . . bill were said to include more and better-paid Border Patrol agents, more funds for Homeland Security detention facilities and stiffer penalties for migrants who missed court hearings, along with better and faster processing of credible asylum claims.”

Reasons for Apparent Failure To Adopt This Bill

According to the StarTribune editorial, this bill “drew support from moderate lawmakers and several organizations.” But the two Senators were “unable to lock down the 60-vote supermajority needed to end the inevitable filibuster,” which prevented the inclusion of the bill in year-end appropriations legislation, all but ending any hope of immigration reform this year.”

The Bloomberg editorial notes that the proposal “aims to reduce strain on the asylum system by discouraging migrants from attempting to cross the border and expelling more of those who do.” For George Will, the bill would correct “two glaring wrongs that large American majorities recognize as such. They are the insecure southern border. And the decades-long callousness toward those called ‘dreamers.’”

This proposal “has angered immigration advocates and progressives in Congress, some of whom have already announced their opposition.” For George Will, these people ignore “the axiom that the perfect is the enemy of the good, [and who] will settle for nothing less than a ‘comprehensive’ solution to all immigration complexities.” Mr. Will also finds fault with criticism of the bill’s provisions to protect the “Dreamers” and the apparent proposed path to citizenship for the U.S.’ approximate 11 million unauthorized immigrants, two-thirds of whom have lived here for more than a decade.

There apparently was nothing in the Sinema-Tillis proposal relating to what is covered in the proposed Afghan Adjustment Act that was discussed in a prior post.[2]

Conclusion

An open invitation for comments is extended to those who are more intimately involved in this legislative conundrum.

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[1] Editorial, Another failure on immigration reform, StarTribune (Dec. 17, 2022); Bloomberg, Editorial, Congress Can’t Waste This Immigration Opportunity, Wash. Post (Dec. 15, 2022); Will, How the Tillis-Sinema immigration bill would right two glaring wrongs, Wash. Post (Dec. 11, 2022); Sotomayor, Goodwin, Sacchetti & DeChaulus, Congress working to strike last-minute immigration deals, Wash. Post (Dec. 5, 2022).

[2] See Wall Street Journal Editorial Supports Afghan Evacuees, dwkcommentaries.com (Dec.13, 2022); Need To Prod Congress To Enact the Afghan Adjustment Act, dwkcommentareis.com (Dec. 17, 2022).

Need To Prod Congress To Enact the Afghan Adjustment Act     

A recent Wall Street Journal editorial strongly endorsed enactment of the pending Afghan Adjustment Act to provide changes in U.S. immigration law to protect the 67,000 Afghans relocated to the U.S. after its withdrawal of forces from that country.[1]

However, that editorial did not discuss the reasons why Congress has not done so. A recent column in the Philadelphia Inquirer by columnist Trudy Rubin has done that, as discussed below.[2]

Rubin starts with the basic premise that before the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the U.S. Congress ”had promised special immigrant visas to Afghans who worked with our military or civilians” and “[o]nce our allies were without the protection of American forces, they would surely face Taliban revenge.”

The proposed Afghan Adjustment Act addresses these issues. But this bill “is almost dead because political leaders from both parties have chosen to ignore it. If it doesn’t pass this year, there is virtually zero chance a Republican-led Congress will put it forward next year.”

Led by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa is a key opponent of the measure and claims that he and his Republican colleagues “oppose the measure for security reasons. But the Afghans here have already been vetted, and the act would require additional security checks. In other words, the act is a solution to the security problem, not the reverse.”

Moreover, Grassley’s opposition “makes it impossible to attach the act to the omnibus appropriations bill working its way through to passage by year’s end. That is the only path open to getting the Afghan bill through.”

In addition, one of the advocates for the Adjustment Act, Peter Meijer, a Republican representative from Michigan and a veteran of the Iraq war who worked as a civilian in Afghanistan, said that the Biden “administration is not really lifting a finger” for the Act. . . . Nobody is really opposed to it, but nobody is viscerally advocating [for it].”

Another House colleague, Representative Seth Moulton (Democrat, Massachusetts), sees the failure to enact the Act is a stain on American honor. He said, ““We made that promise to protect the Afghan people who risked their lives to help us. We put our word on the line on behalf of our country. And we know how hard it will be in the future conflicts to find foreign allies if we can’t keep our word.”

Therefore, Rye Barcott, a Marine veteran and cofounder of With Honor, a bipartisan organization dedicated to enlisting veterans in public service, said “Legislators need to feel a sense of urgency from their constituents, who need to contact their legislators. . . . right now.”

Conclusion

Therefore, immediately after publishing this post, I will send it along with the one about the Wall Street Journal editorial to my Minnesota Senators, Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, and Representative Ilhan Omar. As a native Iowan, I also will send these posts to Senator Grassley.

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[1] Wall Street Journal Editorial Supports Afghan Evacuees, dwkcommentaries.com (Dec. 13, 2022).

[2] Rubin, Will Congress really send 80,000 Afghans back to the Taliban?, Phil. Inquirer (Dec. 14, 2022). See also Stockman, Do Right by Our Afghan Allies. Pass the Afghan Adjustment Act, N.Y. Times (Dec. 16, 2022).

 

Wall Street Journal Editorial Supports Afghan Evacuees    

A recent Wall Street Journal editorial calls for congressional passage of the Afghan Adjustment Act. [1] This is what it said.

“President Biden’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 ended the free choice of countless Afghans, and thousands who fled to the U.S. are now at risk of losing even more. A fix is on Congress’s agenda, but time is running out.”

“As the Taliban regime retook the country, more than 79,000 Afghans were evacuated to the U.S. They have already undergone vetting, and the majority were granted a temporary immigration status known as humanitarian parole, which offers no path to permanent residency. It also expires after two years.”

“That impending deadline weighs on Mohammad Khisraw Noori, 36, who worked for a time as an interpreter for the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan. Mr. Noori fled to the U.S. with his wife, Waghma, daughter Adeeba, now 6, and son Ebadul Rahman, now 4. They’re in California.”

“’Sometimes I feel like I’m dreaming: How is it possible when I wake up that I’m not worried about something bad?’ he says. ‘If you ask my girl, she’ll say, I’m from America,’ not Afghanistan. She’ll say, ‘I’m so happy here, there’s no shooting.’” Yet Mr. Noori can’t reassure Adeeba that they can stay.”

“When humanitarian parole expires, these Afghans can’t legally stay in the U.S., and the risk of deportation looms. They could seek renewal of their parole or temporary protected status, but neither promises long-term stability. They could ask for asylum, but the dysfunctional U.S. immigration system already faces lengthy backlogs. Tens of thousands of Afghan applicants would exacerbate the problem, and it might be years before they know their fates.”

“’A lot of folks are kind of in limbo,’ says Matt Watters, a Green Beret who served in Afghanistan and is a friend of Mr. Noori. ‘It’s hard for them to invest in certifications that are U.S.-specific, or go to college, or buy a home or a car if they don’t know if they can stay.’”

“The solution is a bill called the Afghan Adjustment Act, which would provide a path to a green card for those currently on humanitarian parole. The legislation would put these Afghans through another round of vetting, looking for links to drug trafficking or terrorism. Anyone who committed a crime after arriving in the U.S. would be disqualified.”

“The U.S. already offers a special immigrant visa that gives permanent residence to Afghans who worked closely with the U.S. government and military. The Afghan Adjustment Act would create a similar pathway for those who fought the Taliban by serving Afghanistan’s Army Special Operations Command, Air Force, Special Mission Wing or Female Tactical Teams. Their spouses and children would be eligible as well.”

“Not all Afghans who supported the American mission managed to escape. The U.S. has no embassy in the country today, but the bill would require the State Department to establish an office that could review Afghans’ applications and issue visas, and an interagency task force would work to alleviate constraints.”

“The Taliban takeover was a particular tragedy for Afghans who supported the U.S. mission, fought for the rights of women, or sought to build a civil society and a free political system. The U.S. has a moral obligation to do what it can to mitigate the harm of Mr. Biden’s catastrophic withdrawal, and passing the Afghan Adjustment Act would be a good start.”

Conclusion

This blog has supported the immediate adoption of the Afghan Adjustment Act based, in part, upon this blogger’s involvement in Minneapolis’ Westminster Church’s co-sponsorship of an Afghan family.[2]

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[1] Editorial, Afghan Allies Still Need America’s Help, W.S.J. (Dec. 12, 2022).

[2]  Immense Problems Hampering U.S. Efforts To Resettle Afghans, dwkcommentaries.com (Oct. 22, 2022); More Criticism of U.S. Means of Addressing Immigration Needs of Afghan Evacuees, dwkcommentaries.com (Nov. 3, 2021); U.S. Resettlement of Refugees and Recent Afghan Evacuees, dwkcommentaries.com (Sept. 21, 2021).

More Criticism of U.S. Means of Addressing Immigration Needs of Afghan Evacuees  

This blog previously discussed the complexity of meeting the U.S. immigration needs of Afghan evacuees, estimated at 65,000 to 199,000 less than two weeks ago.[1] This analysis has been underscored by John T. Medeiros, an experienced U.S. immigration attorney and the Chair of the Minnesota/Dakotas Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.[2]

According to Medeiros, this subject was the focus of a recent conference call with nearly 100 immigration lawyers across the U.S.

He noted that he and many other immigration lawyers have been focused on assisting “family members and friends of Afghan allies in applying for humanitarian parole, which the federal Immigration Service says “is used to bring someone who is otherwise inadmissible to the United States for a temporary period of time due to an emergency.”

This conference call emphasized the following current status of this situation:

  • “Within the past two months there have been over 17,000 applications for humanitarian parole filed with the USCIS.”
  • “Each application includes a filing fee of $575; in the past two months the USCIS has received an estimated $9.8 million in fees.”
  • “While there is an option to request a fee waiver, almost all applications filed with a fee waiver have been rejected by the USCIS.”
  • “For the pending 17,000 applications there are a total of six USCIS adjudicators.”
  • “Since Sept. 1, USCIS has not processed any applications for individuals still in Afghanistan.”
  • “Since that same date, USCIS has processed ‘a handful of applications’ for Afghan nationals displaced in a third country.”
  • “USCIS is expected to soon announce its plans to adjudicate those applications that remain pending, with priority given to individuals who are not physically in Afghanistan. The rationale for this decision is that third-country nationals would be able to obtain the required travel permission in the form of a visa at a U.S. consular post in the third country, while visa services have been suspended within Afghanistan.”
  • “It is unclear if [U.S.] visas will be issued to displaced Afghan nationals who are not in possession of a valid passport.”

This horrible situation, said Medeiros, caused the participants in this conference call to demand the following actions:

“[We] call on Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to immediately allocate sufficient resources to the USCIS for the swift adjudication of the pending 17,000 applications for humanitarian parole and to approve applications for fee waivers for applicants who meet the eligibility criteria.”

“After these applications have been approved, we call on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to expedite the vetting process and the issuance of visas to displaced Afghan nationals, including those who are not in possession of a valid passport.”

“[We] call on the office of the White House to authorize the U.S. Department of Defense to send military flights to countries with concentrations of displaced Afghan nationals, and evacuate those with valid claims to asylum, Special Immigrant Visas or any other immigration benefit.”

“[We] call on Congress to swiftly pass the Afghan Adjustment Act, which would provide a path to permanent residence for those Afghan evacuees who have risked their lives in support of U.S. military efforts. It is the least we can do to honor the sacrifices our Afghan allies have made for the benefit of American democracy.”

Conclusion

These recommendations are endorsed by this blogger, who is a retired lawyer who did not specialize in immigration law, but who in the mid-1980s learned certain aspects of immigration and asylum law and then served as a pro bono lawyer for asylum seekers from El Salvador and other countries.[3]

This endorsement is also buttressed by my current service on the Refugee Co-Sponsorship Team at Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church, which is now co-sponsoring an Afghan family with the assistance of the Minnesota Council of Churches. [4]

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[1]  Immense Problems Hampering U.S. Efforts To Resettle Afghans, dwkcommentaries.com (Oct. 22, 2021).

[2] Medeiros, We’re still failing Afghan allies. Why no outrage?, StarTribune (Nov. 2, 2021); John t. Medeiros [Biography];  American Immigration Lawyers Association, Minnesota/Dakotas Chapter.

[3]  Becoming a Pro Bono Asylum Lawyer, dwkcommentareis.com (May 24, 2011); My Pilgrimage to El Salvador, April 1989, dwkcommentaries.com (May 25,  2011); Teaching the International Human Rights Course, dwkcommentaries.com (July 1, 2011).

[4]  Schulze, Campbell & Krohnke, Our Sojourners Have Arrived, Westminster News, p.7  (Nov. 2021).