America Will Welcome More Refugees as Biden Lifts Trump’s Misguided Restrictions

“Starting with the fiscal year that begins on October 1, the United States will accept up to 125,000 refugees annually”

“This year the cap is set at just 15,000, the lowest single-year total since the Refugee Act of 1980 standardized the admission process. Reversing those cuts, and then some—the refugee cap was 110,000 in the final year of the Obama administration—was a signal of America’s “moral leadership” in the world, Biden said.”

“The idea that refugees are a uniquely dangerous national security threat is simply not based in reality. Since 1975, a grand total of 20 refugees have been convicted of terrorism-related offenses in the United States—in plots that have cumulatively killed three Americans, according to research from Alex Nowrasteh, director of immigration studies for the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. Trump’s slashing of the overall refugee numbers also included a complete ban on admitting refugees from Syria, despite the fact that there has never been a terror attack on U.S. soil carried out by a Syrian refugee. Native-born Americans and foreigners with tourist visas are statistically far more likely to engage in terrorism on U.S. soil”

“while Trump’s actions did little to materially improve American national security, his anti-immigrant agenda did successfully mangle the process for admitting refugees to the country. Beyond the short-term harm to individual immigrants awaiting resettlement, Trump’s reductions undermined the institutional infrastructure at the nine nonprofit agencies that work with the U.S. government to resettle refugees. More than 100 resettlement offices were closed during the Trump years.”

Biden Cuts Support for Saudi War in Yemen, But It Should Only Be the First Step

“The Biden administration’s decision to pull the United States out of Yemen’s six-year-long civil war was a highly prudent act. But it’s merely a first step. Washington’s Middle East policy must be anchored in restraint and humbleness. This simply won’t happen until U.S. policy makers realign the U.S.-Saudi Arabia relationship with the realities of the world today—not on how the world looked during the Cold War.”

The US is telling migrants “don’t come.” They might not be listening.

“the administration has tried to send a message to migrants: don’t come.

The Biden administration has been clear from the outset that the border is “not open” and that migrants should not come in an “irregular fashion.” The US continues to turn away the vast majority of arriving migrants under Title 42 of the Public Health Safety Act, with exceptions for unaccompanied children, some families with young children, and people who were sent back to Mexico to wait for their court hearings in the US.

In recent days, the message has gotten even sharper: “I can say quite clearly: Don’t come over,” Biden said in a recent interview with ABC. “Don’t leave your town or city or community.”

The White House has been amplifying that messaging with more than 17,000 radio ads in Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras since January 21. The ads have played in Spanish, Portuguese, and six Indigenous languages, reaching an estimated 15 million people. There have also been ad campaigns on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, including one that features a Salvadoran who made the dangerous journey north in 2010 at age 19 and was eventually deported after arriving in Texas”

“US messaging may play some role in determining whether people migrate, but it’s only one factor among many sources of information.

Migrants typically get information about the conditions on the border from people in their network who have successfully made the journey, rather than from top-down declarations from US officials. Smugglers have also sought to spread misinformation about the Biden administration’s plans to process asylum seekers. Immigrant advocates on the border have reported hearing rumors spreading that migrants staying in certain camps will be processed or that the border would open at midnight.

These rumors have survived on the hopes of people who have long aspired to migrate. Many of the people arriving on the southern border are fleeing dangerous or unlivable conditions and felt they had no choice but to leave their home countries.

They are primarily coming from Central America’s “Northern Triangle” countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, which for years have been suffering from gang-related violence, government corruption, frequent extortion, and some of the highest rates of poverty and violent crime in the world.

The pandemic-related economic downturn and a pair of hurricanes late last year that devastated Honduras and Guatemala in particular have only exacerbated those more longstanding problems.”

Biden’s stated rationale for extending America’s war in Afghanistan is weak

“President Joe Biden all but said during his first formal press conference on Thursday that the United States would likely extend its 20-year military campaign in Afghanistan for at least a few more months beyond the May 1 withdrawal deadline set by the Trump administration’s agreement with the Taliban.

That’s his prerogative, of course. But some experts and advocates of withdrawing say his stated reason for keeping US troops in harm’s way for a while longer — that in terms of sheer logistics, it would be hard to pull the remaining 3,500 US troops out the country by that date — is weak.”

“The choice facing Biden was always a tough one: Abide by the Trump-era agreement and leave by May 1 — risking the Taliban’s hostile takeover of the country as soon as the US departs and the reversal of progress on women’s and children’s rights that would inevitably follow; or violate the agreement and stay in order to pressure the Taliban to strike a peace deal with the Afghan government, risking more dead American service members in the meantime.

Neither is a great option, which may explain why Biden seems to have chosen a sort of muddled middle path: withdraw, but likely later this year — and make it look less like a strategic decision about the US’s role in the country’s peace process going forward and more like merely a function of logistical realities on the ground.”

“while there are legitimate logistical challenges to pulling out US troops by that tight deadline, some experts I spoke to aren’t convinced that’s what’s really driving Biden’s foot-dragging.

Most analysts and even top congressional Democrats acknowledge that, at this point, the US can’t withdraw from Afghanistan safely by May 1, even if Biden were to order that today.

The main problem isn’t removing the service members themselves, but rather all of their equipment, from the landlocked country. America and its allies could leave things like vehicles and guns behind as part of a hurried exit, but then the Taliban or other terrorist groups could use them for their purposes.

“It takes a while to do [this] methodically and well,” said Jonathan Schroden, an expert on the war at the CNA think tank in Arlington, Virginia.

But some experts and advocates for withdrawal cite two reasons for why Biden’s rationale rings hollow.

First, the timing: “If what he wanted was the fastest possible out, that could have been the order in January,” said Andrew Watkins, the International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Afghanistan

Simply put, the administration is surely aware of how long a safe withdrawal takes. Biden, then, effectively made the decision to keep troops in the country beyond the deadline by not making a decision until he’d passed the point where that was possible.

Second, some say that despite its harsh rhetoric demanding “all foreign troops…withdraw on the specific date,” the Taliban probably wouldn’t consider it a violation of the agreement and start targeting American troops even if the US hadn’t gotten every last person or piece of equipment out of the country by May 1, as long as Biden had announced his order to withdraw and it was genuinely underway.”

“Put together, experts say Biden’s case to the nation for why the US should remain in Afghanistan a little longer doesn’t hold up. Biden’s true intention, they divine, is that the president and his team believe their long-shot push for a diplomatic solution to the 20-year war requires prolonging America’s military presence.”

“So why didn’t Biden just say that during the press conference?

Some experts said the US may still be working to agree to an extension with the Taliban, and openly stating America will remain beyond May 1 to keep the insurgents at the table wouldn’t play well until there’s an understanding. Plus, citing logistical concerns might draw less backlash from the American public than extending the military presence in search of an unlikely peace deal.”

Biden, Democrats Are Locking in Trump’s Tariffs

“The Trump administration was able to reshape America’s trade policy in large part because it simply decided to ignore anything that punctured its manufactured reality about how tariffs work.

Economic data show that American businesses and consumers—not China—are overwhelmingly paying the cost of the tariffs? Send Peter Navarro out to do some television hits where he baselessly claims otherwise.

Thousands of American companies are lining up at hearings to explain why the tariffs would hurt their bottom line? Give Wilbur Ross a can of tomato soup and let him explain that those added costs are actually no big deal.

Farmers are getting gutted by the trade war? Send them fat checks, deny that your policies were to blame, and inadvertently create a new, expensive aid program that will be politically difficult to unwind.”

“the Biden administration seems determined to keep the circus going a while longer. Take, for example, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo doing her best Navarro impression during an interview earlier this month with MSNBC. Asked about whether the Biden administration would roll back the Trump tariffs on steel, aluminum, and other goods from China, Raimondo argued that “the data shows that those tariffs have been effective.”

Have they? Raimondo was careful to avoid saying exactly what the tariffs have been “effective” at accomplishing, but the actual data would suggest the answer is not much—except, of course, raising prices for American businesses and consumers.”

“The fundamental problem is the same one that Trump, Navarro, Ross, and others spent the past few years trying to hand-wave away: Tariffs simply create more losers than winners. The U.S. steel industry, for example, employs about 141,000 workers. But there are more than 6 million workers in manufacturing businesses that consume steel. The tariffs are meant to protect the former group by imposing higher costs on the latter, much larger group.”

“Through its first 50 days in office, the Biden administration has given no indication that it is interested in providing relief to American businesses beset by Trump’s tariffs. If anything, Democrats in the White House and Congress appear to be entrenching those policies.”

Joe Biden’s Cabinet, explained

“After months of confirmation hearings, the vast majority of President Joe Biden’s top advisers are in place. Biden made history with a number of his picks, constructing a diverse Cabinet that’s reflective of America.

According to an NPR analysis, white men made up 32 percent of Biden’s Cabinet picks as of early February, with women accounting for 45 percent of the group and racial minorities accounting for 55 percent. Biden has more women and minorities in his Cabinet than former Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama included.

Stepping back from the overall data, there are several historic firsts. From the first Black secretary of defense to the first Asian American US trade representative to the first Native American interior secretary, Biden has often chosen heads of his agencies that will bring their lived experience to the job.

Much of Biden’s Cabinet looks familiar: It’s stacked with former Obama officials, covering issues from the economy to foreign affairs. But Biden also tapped Cabinet picks from state and local government, including North Carolina environmental official Michael Regan for his EPA administrator, Connecticut education official Miguel Cardona for education secretary, and Mayor Marty Walsh of Boston and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, for the secretaries of labor and transportation, respectively.”

Why a global chip shortage is screwing up America’s pickup trucks

“Just 12 percent of global chip manufacturing is now based in the US, compared to the 37 percent share that the country had in 1990, according to research SIA conducted with the Boston Consulting Group. The primary reasons for this decline are, according to UCLA supply chain professor Christopher Tang, the low cost of production in other countries and chemical processes with less stringent regulation abroad.

“We never had a coordinated plan, meaning these are free markets. So any companies can ship anything outside the country,” Tang explained. “So now is a wake-up call. We have shifted virtually everything, so now it’s an empty vault.”

There are many ideas for how to boost high-tech manufacturing in the US. Some, like Tang, say that part of the key is boosting the number of US students who study STEM and creating more high-tech jobs in the field. Another strategy up for consideration is beefing up US “industrial policy,” which would have the government take a more active role in encouraging high-tech industries in the US, whether through tax benefits, direct investment in research, or government subsidies. In his presidential campaign, Biden even proposed wielding the government’s power to buy these supplies directly from US manufacturers. Now with his supply chain review, Biden appears to be taking a first step toward pursuing that goal.”

“In part, a Biden administration official told Politico, the goal is to ensure that the US isn’t too reliant on other countries and to make US-based supply chains more resilient. In his executive order calling for a review, Biden mentioned everything from another pandemic to a cyberattack to “climate shocks and extreme weather events” as examples of crises that could make it more difficult to get much-needed supplies in the future.”

“Following the supply chain review, the goal isn’t necessarily that the US produces all or even most of a particular product or its subcomponents, experts told Recode. Instead, it’s about making sure the country has stockpiles; coordinated supply chains of needed supplies and components from different parts of the world; and enough domestic manufacturing to ensure the US can weather another crisis.

But the task of building new high-tech manufacturing in the US would be a tall order.”

Will at-home abortions make Roe v. Wade obsolete?

“Biden’s pledge to “follow the science” when it comes to public health is under scrutiny as medical experts argue — citing new data gained during the pandemic — that administering the abortion drugs remotely is safe and effective.

Should the federal rules get rewritten, someone in, say, Arkansas, could have a video consultation with a doctor in Massachusetts or even the UK and then receive the pills by mail. Even if red states moved to ban their importation, enforcement would be nearly impossible.

“It takes the fight out of the clinic setting into individual people’s homes,” explained Alina Salganicoff, the Director of Women’s Health Policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “That becomes much more difficult to regulate and could potentially broaden access.”

Women’s health and advocacy groups stress, however, that the pills are not a panacea. For one, they can only be used safely in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy — a narrow time window during which many people are not yet aware that they are pregnant. Additionally, taking the pills in a state that has banned them could be legally perilous, discouraging people from seeking medical help if they have a complication.”

“Medication abortion relies on two pills — misoprostol, which is lightly regulated, and mifepristone, which has been more tightly regulated by FDA since its introduction in the market decades ago.

Yet mifepristone “has very few risks at all,” argues Villavicencio. “It is more safe than over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen and Tylenol. We know this medication can be safely administered via telemedicine because we’ve studied it.”

ACOG, along with the American Medical Association and other leading medical groups, has been lobbying the Biden administration and arguing in court that the federal rules for dispensing the pills should be loosened. Their push has been echoed on Capitol Hill, where Democratic lawmakers have urged Biden to allow telemedicine abortions both during the pandemic and beyond.

But the decision still presents a political quandary for Biden, who until recently was relatively conservative on abortion for a Democratic politician.”

Biden Administration Affirms Support for Protectionist Jones Act, Throwing Hawaiians, Puerto Ricans to the Sharks

“Biden made it abundantly clear that he supports the Jones Act, a 1920 federal law that requires that cargo ships traveling between American ports be made in America and owned and crewed by American citizens”

“The Jones Act is an absolutely terrible law, designed purely for protectionist measures, that shields maritime companies and unions in the United States from competition. The consequence of the Jones Act is that a foreign commerce ship that goes to states like Hawaii or Alaska or to territories like Puerto Rico can engage in domestic trade in only one American port. It can travel to other American ports but cannot take on or deliver goods unless it goes to a foreign port and then returns. A vessel from Japan that’s heading to Los Angeles cannot also stop in Hawaii along the way and engage in commerce, despite the logical economic efficiencies in doing so.”

“The end result of this restrictive law is that only two percent of U.S. freight is transported by sea, despite our long coasts, our many ports, and island states and territories. It’s in part why we have to depend so much on trucks and trains for transporting goods, even along coastal regions. Cato notes that internal shipping is about half the volume it was in 1960, while rail and truck commerce both saw dramatic increases.

Nowhere are the burdens of the Jones Act more apparent than in places like Hawaii and Puerto Rico. These restrictions distort market forces and significantly drive up the costs to transport goods to these places. The New York Fed calculated that it can cost twice as much to ship something from the American mainland to Puerto Rico as it does to nearby island nations like Jamaica. Puerto Rico actually imports jet fuel from other countries rather than the Gulf Coast because it’s just too expensive to get Jones Act-compliant vessels.

There’s no need to exaggerate the impact of the Jones Act on domestic transport costs because whenever a disaster comes around, like Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017, the government will temporarily waive the Jones Act’s requirements so that the costs of recovery aren’t quite as back-breaking.”

“”Among the obstacles to Jones Act reform is the complex web of special interests that benefit from preservation of the status quo. Among Jones Act supporters are U.S. shipbuilders, merchant mariners, various maritime unions, and those who actually believe the law is essential to national security.””

Biden Brings Back Family Separation—This Time in Mexico

“The door to the U.S. has been shut tight to asylum seekers since last March, about the time when Janiana first arrived in Tijuana, when the Trump administration issued an order at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic that every migrant — child or adult — would be immediately “expelled” back to Mexico or their home country if they attempted to cross the border, without even a chance to make a case that the persecution they face qualifies them to stay. After he took office this year, Joe Biden kept the policy largely in place, but began to admit unaccompanied minors even while continuing to expel both adults and children who enter with families. Since the shift in policy, some parents and guardians have made the devastating decision, calculated only out of desperation, to send their children off ahead of them, alone, to cross the border.

The result is a new form of family separation — but instead of happening at the hands of federal agents in American government facilities, it’s taking place, family by family, in camps like the one Janiana lives in. The fact that minors won’t be expelled like everyone else has rapidly spread by word of mouth across the length of the border. And while many families choose to stick together, the pressure to separate weighs heaviest on the most vulnerable — families who fear death, whether from persecutors who have followed them to the border, or from extreme hunger.

For Janiana, the possibility of being sent back to Honduras reads as a death sentence. She shows me the scars from her torture at the hands of a powerful gang back home that her family got on the wrong side of. Fearing further reprisals, Janiana fled with her sister’s children”

“When the Trump administration implemented the Migrant Protection Protocols — better known as the “Remain in Mexico” program — in December 2018 to force asylum seekers to wait for their hearings outside of the U.S., the policy exempted unaccompanied minors, and many parents released to Mexico with their children made the same decision migrant families are making today: to send their children to cross the border alone so they at least could wait in the U.S.
Then the pandemic hit. In March 2020, the White House strong-armed the Centers for Disease Control to invoke an obscure public health order, Title 42, which gives the executive the power to close the border in a time of health emergency. Citing Covid-19, the U.S. began to immediately turn away thousands of people who would normally be able to make their asylum cases in court — including unaccompanied children.”

“The White House has, as its spokesperson indicated, repeatedly told migrants that “now is not the time to come.” But for would-be asylees like Janiana, the act of leaving home to travel thousands of miles northward in a perilous journey in search of safety isn’t something they can just delay for a more convenient time in the calendar. And, like her, many didn’t leave recently. They’ve been waiting at the border for months.”

“In Tijuana, Janiana says she’s grappled seriously with the idea of separating from her niece’s son. (Her niece, who is too old to be considered a minor, wasn’t available to comment for this story.)

“It is a truly heartbreaking choice to make,” she says, as tears start to well in her eyes. “After everything they have gone through with me. We have gone days without food, together.” On a bus ride to Tijuana, she says the baby went three days without anything to eat or drink besides flour tortillas and bottled water that a kind Cuban migrant shared with them. Sometimes, when she’s feeling at her lowest, Janiana says she has been most tempted to send the baby to cross the border alone, but she remains resolute for now that they must remain together. However, she can understand how others have made the decision already.”