How the US is failing refugees, in one chart

“For the first time on record, the global number of people forced to flee their homes has crossed the staggering milestone of 100 million, according to recent data from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

That 100 million includes refugees, asylum seekers, and those displaced inside their borders by conflict. If they were a single country, it would be the 14th most-populous nation in the world.

“It’s a record that should never have been set,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a press statement. “This must serve as a wake-up call.”

It should especially serve as a wake-up call for rich countries like the United States that have fallen short of their moral and political responsibilities to the displaced.

“We very much have a national mythos around being a safe haven and being a nation of immigrants,” said Elizabeth Foydel, the private sponsorship program director at the nonprofit International Refugee Assistance Project. “And for a long time, the US was the top country in terms of resettlement. But I think it’s definitely fair to say that we’ve been falling short over the past several years. You see a pretty significant decline overall.””

“Part of the work of rebuilding the US resettlement program is undoing the damage that was done under previous administrations. That means staffing up the government agencies that do resettlement and streamlining the security vetting process.

The Biden administration is also working on getting a private sponsorship program up and running by the end of this year, one that would allow Americans to sponsor not only Afghan refugees, as I’ve previously written about, but refugees from any country.”

“For anyone interested in becoming a sponsor through this program, it’s a good idea to start preparing now, since it will likely require a fair amount of money. Canada’s highly successful private sponsorship program, for example, requires a sponsor to raise nearly $23,000 USD to bring over a family of four refugees. The US equivalent of that program could easily require money on a similar scale.

But it would be well worth it, since it would provide an immigration pathway so more vulnerable people can enter the US. Importantly, the State Department has signaled that any refugees who come to the US via private sponsorship will be in addition to the number of traditional, government-assisted resettlement cases.”

Biden Administration To Protect Afghans in the U.S. From Deportation

“Afghans in the United States are now eligible for temporary protected status (TPS), an immigration protection that shields people from deportation and allows them to work in the U.S. legally for the next 18 months.

“This TPS designation will help to protect Afghan nationals who have already been living in the United States from returning to unsafe conditions,” said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. “Under this designation, TPS will also provide additional protections and assurances to trusted partners and vulnerable Afghans who supported the U.S. military, diplomatic, and humanitarian missions in Afghanistan over the last 20 years.”

The designation pertains most directly to the 76,000 Afghans who were resettled in the U.S. after the American military withdrawal from Afghanistan last year. They entered the country under parole, a temporary classification that does not involve a pathway to citizenship or permanent residency. Though TPS is also a temporary designation, it prevents deportation in the event that an asylum claim is rejected.”

‘Things Will Only Get Worse.’ Putin’s War Sends Russians Into Exile.

“While the exodus of about 2.7 million Ukrainians from their war-torn country has focused the world on a burgeoning humanitarian crisis, the descent of Russia into new depths of authoritarianism has many Russians despairing of their future. That has created a flight — though much smaller than in Ukraine”

“Some who have fled are bloggers, journalists or activists who feared arrest under Russia’s draconian new law criminalizing what the state deems “false information” about the war.
Others are musicians and artists who see no future for their crafts in Russia. And there are workers in tech, law and other industries who saw the prospect of comfortable, middle-class lives — let alone any possibility for moral acceptance of their government — dissipate overnight.

They left behind jobs and family and money stuck in Russian bank accounts that they can no longer access. They fear being tarred as Russians abroad as the West isolates the country for its deadly invasion, and they reel over the loss of a positive Russian identity.

“They didn’t just take away our future,” Polina Borodina, a Moscow playwright, said of her government’s war in Ukraine. “They took away our past.”

The speed and scale of the flight reflect the tectonic shift the invasion touched off inside Russia. For all of President Vladimir Putin’s repression, Russia until last month remained a place with extensive travel connections to the rest of the world, a mostly uncensored internet giving a platform to independent media, a thriving tech industry and a world-class arts scene. Slices of Western middle-class life — Ikea, Starbucks, affordable foreign cars — were widely available.

But when they woke up Feb. 24, many Russians knew that all that was over. Dmitry Aleshkovsky, a journalist who spent years promoting Russia’s emerging culture of charitable giving, got in his car the next day and drove to Latvia.”

Biden’s immigration polices have left Haitians stranded in Mexico

“Thousands of Haitians are indefinitely trapped in Mexico. They face pervasive racism, and many are unable to work, have no access to medical care, and are targets for criminals. Most have arrived in the last year, hoping that the Biden presidency would open up an opportunity for them to finally seek protection in the US.

Those hopes were in vain. Now, Mexico is seeing a sharp uptick in Haitian asylum applicants — a surge it is unequipped to manage — all because the United States has offloaded its immigration responsibilities onto its neighbor.

The Biden administration continues to enforce pandemic-related border restrictions that have kept out the vast majority of asylum seekers, including Haitians; it’s deported nearly 14,000 Haitians since September 2021 despite their country’s political and economic crises. As a result, many Haitians face a difficult choice: Try to cross the US border and risk getting deported to Haiti if caught, or attempt to make a life for themselves in Mexico, at least temporarily.”

“President Joe Biden did allow more than 100,000 Haitians already living in the US before July 29, 2021, to apply for Temporary Protected Status, which allows them to live and work in the US on a temporary basis. But he has largely pursued a strategy of deterrence and exclusion with respect to Haitian migrants outside US borders, despite the fact that their country is still reeling from President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination and the one-two punch of a 7.2-magnitude earthquake and a tropical storm last summer.”

“The US could have made other choices that would have eased the burden on Mexico. For example, the Biden administration could have expanded TPS for Haitians or allowed them to enter the US temporarily on what’s called “parole,” a kind of temporary protection from deportation. It could have ended its deportation flights to Haiti and its restrictive border policies, or at least created broader exemptions to them. Instead, it has dumped its responsibilities to Haitians onto Mexico, which is ill-equipped to give them the kind of support they need.”

Can US investment really ease Central America’s migrant crisis?

“The US’s latest investments aim to address economic hardship in the region in three ways: By bringing more workers into the formal economy, by setting higher wage and labor standards, and by using corporate influence to fight corruption.

That won’t happen overnight. But there is reason to hope that US companies could meaningfully improve living conditions over time and give people a reason to stay.”

“The region needs sustained investment before its residents will see any meaningful improvement in quality of life that might dissuade them from making the choice to migrate. In the past, US government aid has proved an unreliable source of that kind of investment. Former President Donald Trump decided to slash US aid to the region by a third, turning the clock back on the Obama administration’s efforts. Honduras saw homicides surge thereafter, and funding for social welfare programs ranging from job training for at-risk youths to grants for women entrepreneurs was cut.

The Biden administration hopes that because private companies are behind these latest investments, profit might motivate them to continue investing in the region, regardless of how US policy evolves, creating a more reliable stream of funding for Northern Triangle residents. The danger of this approach, of course, is that these companies could also suddenly pull their investments if they’re found to hurt the bottom line.”

“At the moment, governments in the region have so far been unable to provide a significant social safety net because they haven’t had the money to do so. In part, that’s because countries in the Northern Triangle have among the lowest effective tax rates in the world. Workers with informal jobs don’t typically pay taxes and local corporations often try to evade them.

Guatemala’s 2019 tax revenue, for instance, was just 13.1 percent of its GDP — the lowest among Latin America and Caribbean countries, which brought in nearly 23 percent of their GDP on average. For comparison, taxation brings in an average of about a third of GDP across high-income countries that are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

In Honduras, that has resulted in a sparse welfare system. There are no government-provided unemployment benefits. Though it has a social security program, only formal workers can pay into it and benefit from it. Public health care services are for the most part only available in large cities, leaving people in rural areas without access to physicians. That lack of support, coupled with pervasive violence and corruption, has left many migrants with no choice but to seek safety and opportunity elsewhere.”

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/22836881/biden-central-america-investment-honduras-salvador-guatemala

Around 28,000 Afghans Are Still Awaiting Approval To Come to the U.S. on Urgent Humanitarian Grounds

“Many people seeking an escape from Afghanistan do not qualify for the pathways available to Afghans who served the U.S. military effort in some capacity. Women and girls, human rights workers, journalists, judges, and others must now look instead to a little-used tool of the U.S. immigration system called “humanitarian parole.”

This measure, outlined by the Immigration and Nationality Act, allows certain individuals to enter the U.S. for a temporary period under the discretion of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), on the basis of “urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.” There is no defined set of criteria as to who may qualify for parole, and anyone may apply for it.

Though humanitarian parole allows for faster processing of applicants, it still involves robust vetting. For Afghans, that has meant biometric screenings, cross-checking with intelligence agency watchlists, and other security and identity verification steps. Senior government officials must approve individual applications.

Since July, more than 28,000 Afghans have applied for entry to the U.S. on humanitarian grounds, and the Biden administration reportedly plans to use parole to evacuate up to 50,000 Afghans. But only about 100 applicants have been approved so far.

In large part, this is because this year’s application volume dwarfs the 2,000 parole applications USCIS would receive in a typical year. Staffing issues are also a factor.”

“Applying for parole carries a steep $575 filing charge as well—and an application is no guarantee of protection. USCIS has received roughly $11.5 million from Afghans in just the past few months, according to Al Jazeera, but it has approved few applications in that time.”

Why thousands of Afghans are still on US military bases

“The Afghan evacuation in August was a shock to the US immigration and resettlement system, a collection of federal programs and nonprofit organizations that had already been upended by the Trump administration. Afghan evacuees are in this holding pattern for several reasons.

Biden is pushing to end “Remain in Mexico.” But he may still have to enforce it.

“The memo argues that the policy, also known as “Remain in Mexico,” caused more harm than good, particularly in terms of its humanitarian impact.

“I recognize that MPP likely contributed to reduced migratory flows,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas wrote in the four-page memo announcing the policy shift. “But it did so by imposing substantial and unjustifiable human costs on the individuals who were exposed to harm while waiting in Mexico.”

That determination is in line with Biden’s campaign promises on immigration, which included reversing policies like Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy that resulted in family separations. It’s at odds, however, with the administration’s continuing reluctance to completely do away with other Trump-era legacies like Title 42, the immigration order that has allowed for the deportation of migrants as a public health measure during the pandemic.

And even though Biden began rolling back the MPP soon after taking office in January, his administration has had to prepare to re-implement the program in recent weeks in order to comply with a previous court order — even as it’s actively fighting to end the policy for good.”

“A 39-page justification published along with the memo outlines in further detail the conditions migrants faced in detention in Mexico, including the risk of sexual assault and kidnapping in the encampments where they stayed, as well as unsanitary and unstable housing conditions, limited access to health care and legal counsel, and insufficient food while they waited for the US to make a decision about their asylum hearings.

The right to seek asylum is protected under international law, and has been since the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948.”

“Ultimately, the Biden administration argues the policy has far too many issues for it to be salvaged: Not only does it require significant resources that could be directed elsewhere, according to the DHS memo, but MPP also failed to achieve reduction in crimes like human trafficking and drug smuggling, put people in serious danger, and doesn’t address the root causes that lead to people seeking asylum.

Additionally, the memo says, any program fixes would require the cooperation of Mexico and further diplomatic negotiations — time and energy that could be better spent on other issues. And other strict immigration policies were enacted at the same time as MPP, making it difficult to assess any deterrent effect the policy may have achieved.”

U.S. To Continue Cruel Treatment of Haitian Refugees—But Not on Horseback

“The horse patrols aren’t the point. Democrats promised a different sort of immigration policy than what former President Donald Trump offered. But with a few tweaks around the margins, the Biden administration has continued—or even expanded—its predecessor’s policies.

It gets away with this in part because of symbiotic bullshitting between the Biden administration and the people opposed to it. The latter really want their base to think that Democrats are ushering in “open borders” and an influx of scary criminal immigrants, so they rant and rave as if President Joe Biden isn’t just largely continuing Trump policies. And since Democrats don’t want to seem like Trump 2.0 on immigration, both teams of bullshit artistry benefit.”

“The administration’s tone-deaf response? To announce that border patrol agents would stop riding horses, for now.

“We have ceased the use of the horse patrol in Del Rio temporarily,” a Department of Homeland Security official told reporters on Thursday.

They’ll still be capturing and sending home asylum seekers on sight. In fact, they’ll be doing more of it. But by foot! Or by truck! Not on a horse! Doesn’t that make you feel better about our government rounding up migrants, chaining them, and shipping them back to their countries of origin without so much as a chance to plead their case for a better life here?”