“More than 60,000 refugees have fled to neighboring Sudan since the fighting began in November, and humanitarian groups — many of which remain cut off from parts of Tigray — say the security situation has likely displaced thousands of people internally.
The United Nations estimates that of Tigray’s 6 million people, 4.5 million are in need of food aid. A recent report from the World Peace Foundation warns of the risk of famine and mass starvation as people are displaced and crops, livestock, and the tools needed to make and collect food are destroyed.
One witness in Tigray, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he fears for his safety, told me that Eritrean soldiers will kill an ox and eat just one leg, leaving the rest of the carcass to rot. “The people are either dying by blood or by hunger,” he said by phone from Mekele, Tigray’s capital, earlier this month.
Prime Minister Abiy, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient who was once seen as the country’s peacemaker and a democratic liberalizer, is now leading a country that is beginning to turn on itself.
Violence and ethnic tensions are flaring up in other parts of Ethiopia. Sudanese and Ethiopian troops have clashed in a disputed border territory, a sign of how Tigray’s unrest is spilling over into an already volatile neighborhood where Ethiopia had been viewed, at least by some international partners, as a stabilizing force.
The war in Tigray has no clear end, and the reports of killing and rape and looting are still happening. “Everybody is just waiting, just waiting — not to live, but waiting for what will happen tomorrow, or in the night,” the man in Mekele said.”
“The fundamentals of the war have remained unchanged since nearly the beginning. The Taliban insurgency can and will outlast the U.S. occupation and the U.S.-backed regime in Kabul is too corrupt and weak to establish itself as a sovereign.
“The fact that we have failed to defeat the Taliban or to effectively establish a new government after almost 20 years of trying strongly suggests it is an unachievable mission and, far from a reason to stay longer, is in fact a compelling reason to leave as soon as possible.”
“policymakers have to come to grips with the fact they don’t have many policy tools to effectively manipulate the treatment of Afghans in Afghanistan. Human rights protections have improved for many Afghans during the U.S. occupation, including respect for women’s rights. But even after nearly two decades of efforts on the ground, the United Nations still ranks Afghanistan 153rd out of 160 countries for gender equality. In a 2017 index, Afghanistan tied with Syria for the worst place in the world to be a woman.
If U.S. policymakers are serious about adopting policies that can protect Afghans under threat, they should welcome Afghans to American shores. The first step is to restart the refugee program that was effectively cancelled by President Donald Trump. Biden said he wants to welcome 125,000 refugees, but he hasn’t taken the first step—authorizing an additional 62,500 this year—even though the presidential determination is sitting on his desk waiting for his signature. Biden could permit entry to 40,000 Afghans a year if he wanted to.
A second step would be to allow Americans to privately sponsor refugees at their own expense. Such a program could be modeled on America’s experience with private sponsorship for Jews fleeing the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War and on how Canada runs its very successful system today. The Biden administration could start the pilot program and enlist veteran groups who have been at the forefront of arguing for their Afghan comrades to find refuge in America.
That leads us to the Special Immigration Visa (SIV) program for Afghans who were employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government. These folks risked their lives to help American forces and the Taliban will show them no mercy if it takes over. But the SIV is mired in bureaucracy, preventing many deserving applicants from coming here. Biden should give the SIV program a kick in the pants to immediately welcome the roughly 17,000 Afghan employees of the U.S. and their roughly 50,000 family members.
The U.S. could also help European and Asian countries settle Afghan refugees within their borders. Many Afghan refugees want to go to Europe where their family members are living and nothing is stopping the Biden administration from working with the Europeans to facilitate such a humanitarian migration.
Unfortunately, the government probably won’t organize itself in time to help Afghans in these ways. The last, desperate option that the Biden administration will have to consider is paroling Afghan refugees into the United States. Under presidential authority, Biden could fly refugees directly from Afghanistan or surrounding countries to the island of Guam and process them there for entry to the U.S. They could immediately start working and building new lives for themselves.
This is what the United States did for many Kurds during the 1990s after the U.S. government asked them to rebel against Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq and then abandoned them to be slaughtered by the Iraqi government.
Biden’s parole authority is the same that President Gerald Ford had when he decided to process about 111,000 Vietnamese refugees fleeing the Communist takeover of South Vietnam in 1975. At the time, a young senator named Joe Biden said, “The United States has no obligation to evacuate one, or 100,001, South Vietnamese.” The success of the Vietnamese in the United States should have changed Biden’s mind in the intervening decades.
Simply put, the United States has lost the war in Afghanistan. By pushing past the May 1 withdrawal date, Biden is merely delaying the inevitable. Afghanistan and its people are unlikely to be much better off by maintaining a small military presence there for a few months longer. Offering refuge to Afghans fleeing abuse would be a constructive human rights policy. Extending a lost war won’t be.”
“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.”
“Last year, citing the pandemic, the White House strong-armed the Centers for Disease Control to invoke Title 42, an order that closes the border in times of emergency. Though for many classes of people the border has remained totally porous —businesspeople, vacationers and even many immigrants have crossed it freely for most of the pandemic — asylum seekers and refugees have been blocked. In the months since, a record-low number of refugees have been resettled, and just about every asylum seeker arriving on the southern border, except for some unaccompanied children, has been turned away or summarily deported.
While Biden has started to reopen those processes — people in refugee camps in Mexico as part of Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” plan have begun to enter the U.S. to make their cases for asylum — there are reasons to believe that on this front, Trump’s presidency will have a much longer-lasting effect. While Trump and Miller attacked immigration in all its forms, no would-be immigrants received more attention or provoked more action than refugees. And in turning asylum seekers into political ammunition in the American fight over immigration — conflating them with illegal border-crossers — Trump broke a fragile but powerful consensus that had lasted through Republican and Democratic presidents and had kept America open as a nation of refuge for more than a generation.
Biden may yet repeal Title 42, the order closing the door to refugees and asylum seekers, though the White House has said it will remain in place while it figures out how to implement an improved processing system. But that order was not the only way Trump damaged the system. He was the first major party candidate to run on an explicitly anti-refugee platform. And he continued to wage a campaign unapologetically against asylum seekers after taking office, putting through a barrage of rule changes, regulations and legal decisions that hobbled the system before he shut it down altogether in the pandemic.”
“Since Trump mainly used executive action — circumventing Congress — to change policy, it may not be hard for Biden to reopen the U.S. to refugees and asylum seekers over the next four years. But in the longer term, closing the political divide that Trump widened on asylum will prove much more challenging. Thanks to the last administration, asylum in the U.S., once globally reliable, has become like the carpeting in the Oval Office: something that can be torn up and remade from president to president.”
“The Biden administration will soon begin allowing migrants into the U.S. who, because of a Trump-era policy, have been forced to remain in Mexico while their asylum cases are processed.
As part of the new administration’s efforts to overhaul the immigration system, the Department of Homeland Security, starting next Friday, will begin the first phase of a program to gradually let in migrants with active cases under the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy.”
“There are about 25,000 migrants with active cases under MPP, but the new program will first focus on those who have been waiting in the program the longest and vulnerable populations”
“Migrants being processed through the program will be tested for Covid-19 before entering the U.S. And once here, they will be enrolled in an “alternative to detention program” to track them and their cases will be routed to the appropriate court tied to where they settle in the country”
“Biden has long vowed to end the program, which has resulted in tens of thousands of asylum seekers being forced to stay in Mexico, often under poor living conditions and facing danger. On Biden’s first day in office, DHS announced that it would not enroll anyone else in the program.”
“China has criticized Britain for opening its doors in this way, but the U.K. deserves praise for acting quickly and decisively in defense of freedom. Bloomberg’s reporting certainly suggests that demand is surging for this escape route.
It is shameful that America has not stepped up to do something similar.
Hongkongers currently have few options for coming to America. They can seek political asylum in the United States—and an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in July does reserve more spots on the refugee list for people fleeing Hong Kong—but to claim asylum one must be physically present in the United States. That, in turn, requires having another type of visa in order to get on a plane across the Pacific. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has slashed the number of political refugees the country will accept: just 15,000 during the current fiscal year, down from 85,000 in 2016.
Britain issued nearly four times as many BNOs to Hongkongers in October as the number of refugees America will accept from the entire world this year.
What could America do instead? Some members of Congress have proposed a bill to automatically grant asylum to any resident of Hong Kong who arrives in the United States and to exempt those numbers from the official refugee counts set by the White House. A more robust idea, proposed by Matt Yglesias in May, would be to grant a special visa allowing Hongkongers to settle in American counties where the population is shrinking, with permanent residency granted after five years.”
“firsthand accounts of violence have been trickling out from the tens of thousands of refugees who have fled across the border to Sudan — an average of 3,000 per day, according to the United Nations high commissioner for refugees. The humanitarian situation within Tigray is also worrisome: Some 100,000 Eritreans who live in longstanding refugee camps in the region have been cut off from food and other aid for weeks due to the fighting.
This is a refugee and humanitarian crisis unfolding in real time, amid a pandemic and a hunger crisis exacerbated by drought and locusts.”
“During a rally in Duluth, Trump accused Democratic nominee Joe Biden of having a plan “to inundate your state with a historic flood of refugees,” prompting his fans to boo. He then turned his ire on one of his frequent targets of abuse: Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Somali refugee who now represents Minneapolis in Congress.
“And what about Omar? Where she gets caught [ballot] harvesting. What the hell is going on? I hope your US attorney is involved,” Trump continued, referring to a newly released Project Veritas video that alleges (without any evidence) that Omar is involved in election fraud; the video has been dismissed as a “coordinated disinformation campaign” by researchers.
As “lock her up!” chants rang out, Trump added, “I mean, frankly, harvesting’s terrible, but it’s the least of the things that she has done. How the hell — then she tells us how to run our country. Can you believe it? What the hell is wrong with you people? What the hell happened?”
Before his rant was through, Trump suggested that another Congress member of color — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) — should also be imprisoned for no reason in particular.
“[Omar’s] been crooked for a long time. This is the least of it. It’s time, and you know what, AOC also. It’s time. It’s time. If you take a look at what they — the corruption. The disgusting corruption,” he said. “Biden will turn Minnesota into a refugee camp.”
Wednesday’s rally marked the second time in less than a month that Trump viciously attacked Omar in particular and the Somali community in general during a speech in Minnesota. On September 26 in Bemidji, Trump alluded to Somalis and asked his fans, sarcastically, “Are you having a good time with your refugees?”
Toward the end of that speech, Trump turned the white supremacy up to 11, telling his almost entirely white audience, “You have good genes, you know that, right? You have good genes. A lot of it is about the genes, isn’t it, don’t you believe? The racehorse theory. You think we’re so different? You have good genes in Minnesota.”
Over a 24-hour period before Trump’s speech in Duluth, his campaign spent more than $10,000 on Facebook ads demonizing refugees. Those ads were ultimately taken down by Facebook for violating the company’s advertising policies.”
“Administration officials are facing an October 1 deadline to confer with members of Congress over what the refugee admissions cap should be for the next fiscal year, as required by law. Last year, however, the administration didn’t hold that meeting until October 5 and it wasn’t until November 1 that it announced the new cap, which was set at 18,000 — the lowest since the refugee program was created in 1980 and down from 110,000 when Trump took office.”
“Joe Biden, the party’s presidential nominee, has pledged to take in up to 125,000 refugees in the year after he takes office and increase admissions “commensurate with our responsibility, our values and the unprecedented global need.””
“Former President George W. Bush briefly cut the number of refugees admitted after the 9/11 attacks, but even then the limit was set at 70,000.
But the bipartisan consensus on maintaining a robust refugee resettlement program began to unravel after the Paris terror attacks in late 2015, said Yael Schacher, senior US advocate for Refugees International, when suicide bombers — reportedly sanctioned by the Islamic State — killed 130 civilians in explosions and mass shootings throughout the city.
There was speculation that one of the attackers was a refugee, one of 5.6 million Syrians who have been displaced since 2011 by the still-ongoing civil war. It was later confirmed that all of the perpetrators were citizens of the European Union. But the rumors were enough to spark a panic about Syrian refugees and start a movement at the state level to cut back US admissions of Syrian refugees and resettlement efforts more broadly.
Governors from 31 states, all Republican but for New Hampshire’s Maggie Hassan, said in 2015 that they no longer wanted their state to take in Syrian refugees. In 2016, Mike Pence, then the governor of Indiana, also tried to prevent refugee resettlement agencies in his state from getting reimbursed for the cost of providing social services to Syrian refugees.
But states didn’t have the legal authority to simply refuse refugees; that’s the prerogative of the federal government. Pence ultimately had to back down after a federal court ruled against his decision to withhold the reimbursements.
Trump, then campaigning for president, stirred up more fear, suggesting that Syrian refugees were raising an army to launch an attack on the US and promising that all of them would be “going back” if he won the election. He said that he would tell Syrian children to their faces that they could not come to the US, speculating that they could be a “Trojan horse.”
When Trump eventually took office, he delivered on his promise to slash refugee admissions from Syria, suspending refugee admissions altogether from January to October 2017. From October 2017 to October 2018, the US admitted only 62.”