Sunday, April 18, 2021

Give me your tired excuses, your poor rationalizations . . .

The Spy's Report from Washington

By Emma Goldman, Immigration Editor
with Isidore Stone,
Spy Washington Bureau

It's not every day that the U.S. Government makes a decision that is both indefensible on its merits and universally despised.  And it's even rarer when such a decision is made by the heretofore politically astute Biden Administration.

But on a Friday afternoon, when it thought no one would be looking, the Biden team hit the Daily Double by backing down from its oft repeated promise to abandon the bigoted Former Loser Grifter limitations on admissions of vetted refugees.

It was a clusterf**k.

Around noon,

The White House announced on Friday that President Biden would limit the number of refugees allowed into the United States this year to the historically low level set by the Trump administration, reversing an earlier promise to welcome more than 60,000 people fleeing war and persecution. 

It did not go well.  A few hours later,

the move to cap the number at 15,000 prompted such an immediate backlash from Democrats and human rights activists that the White House later retreated and promised to announce a final, increased number by May 15.

The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, did not specify how many refugees would be allowed into the country, but she did say that Mr. Biden’s initial goal of welcoming 62,500 seemed “unlikely.”

So first the Biden Administration alienated its allies, and then by flip-flopping it provided further ammo to anti-immigration white supremacists, all while forcing long-suffering refugees to suffer even more from the uncertainty.  Talk about a good day's work. 

The Biden Administration knows refugees are nothing but trouble   (c)NY Times

The debacle proved embarrassing enough for the formerly tight-lipped Biden team to start some desperate leaking:

Unauthorized migrants crossing the border are processed differently from refugees, who are fully vetted and approved for resettlement before arriving. But Mr. Biden was concerned that lifting the Trump-era cap on refugees would overwhelm the already-strapped system, according to two senior administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss decision making.

Still, the Biden administration had been promising for months to raise the cap. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken notified Congress on Feb. 12 that the administration planned to allow up to 62,500 refugees to enter the United States in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, citing “grave humanitarian concerns” around the world. 

Both the practical and political concerns are, to put it kindly, lame.  Even the normally staid New York Times had to point out that two of the agencies dealing with border crossers, the Border Patrol and the inland body snatchers (ICE), don't deal with the formal refugee resettlement program.  The office that houses minor noncitizens, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, is involved with refugee admissions, but the refugee admissions group is separate from the team charged with care of unaccompanied minors.

The heavy lifting in the refugee program is the vetting process, intended to weed out criminals, terrorists, friends of Roger Stone, and other undesirables:

Before admission to the United States, each refugee must undergo a rigorous interviewing process to ensure that the individual meets the “refugee” definition. . . . Applications for refugee resettlement can be denied on health-related grounds, criminal grounds, and security grounds. They may also be denied for polygamy, misrepresentation of facts on visa applications, smuggling, and previous deportations.

And that work is done by the State Department and USCIS.  Once the refugee has been vetted, it's a matter of arranging a plane ticket and coordinating with local voluntary organizations who have done an admirable job of receiving the refugees and integrating them into their new communities.  So the supposed practical objection to letting in previously cleared refugees is a pretext.

The results of the Biden Admission refusal to resume admissions of cleared refugees are appalling:

As a result, tens of thousands of people who have already completed the complex process for resettling in the United States have been stranded abroad, often in overcrowded refugee camps where many have been waiting for years.

“These are refugees approved to come here, who have been waiting for years and whose flights have been canceled numerous times,” said Jennifer Sime, senior vice president for resettlement, asylum and integration at the International Rescue Committee. 

Of course, since they are refugees, they are by definition living in precarious and often dangerous conditions.  Otherwise, they wouldn't be refugees.

You don't have to take our word for it.  You ought to be able to rely on a report signed by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken eons ago, or, more precisely, February 12, 2021:

The United States, like UNHCR, recognizes that resettlement in third countries is a vital tool for providing a durable solution for refugees who cannot return safely to their country of origin or integrate into local communities in a country of first asylum. For some refugees, resettlement is the safest, and perhaps the only, alternative. It is a complementary tool to humanitarian assistance, supporting countries hosting large numbers of refugees, the vast majority of whom will never be resettled.

Through the USRAP, the U.S. government not only addresses humanitarian needs for specific populations but demonstrates leadership that encourages other States to identify and protect vulnerable people. For example, by resettling stateless refugees through the USRAP, the U.S. government encourages other countries to do more to help stateless people and prevent new stateless populations, including by implementing universal birth registration. Stateless refugees who arrive in the United States for resettlement not only find a durable solution to their displacement but are also placed on a path that will afford the opportunity to naturalize and resolve their stateless status.

So who could disagree with that, other than the Administration of which Secretary Blinken is a part?  Fun fact: the 62,500 figure was included in that official State Department report.

Which brings us to the real if ridiculous ground for backtracking on the commitment to undo the FLG's anti-refugee scheme:

The tortuous maneuvering reflected growing concern about immigration inside the White House, according to people with knowledge of the decision-making process, who cited worries about expanding the refugee program at a moment when critics are pummeling Biden with claims that he is too soft in his policies and rhetoric. The president is struggling to contain the soaring number of migrants arriving at the southern border, which has caused significant anxiety inside the West Wing, according to people with knowledge of the situation. 

Thanks Joe for protecting us from this
Let's try something the Biden Administration eschewed and think about this for a moment.  First, Biden isn't expanding the refugee program, he's returning to the levels that the nation accepted without difficulty prior to the presidency of a corrupt bigoted Russian-owned stooge.  Second, the refugee program involves resettling these folks in small clumps around the country, often in places desperate for dynamic young families, like Lewiston, Maine:

Yet Lewiston is more vital than it was two decades ago. Of the city’s 36,000 residents, 6,000 are now African refugees and asylum-seekers. New immigrants work in health care, retail, industry, and food service. The first Somali American kids born in the city are high school juniors, and a new elementary school opened in September with a 900-student capacity – among the largest K-5s in Maine.

Who would prefer Lewiston to be less vital than it was 20 years ago?  Answer: the bigots the Biden Administration thinks it can appease through gratuitous cruelty to vetted refugees.   As The Washington Post writes with a straight face

For all the furor, the political effect of Biden’s move was unclear. While he met a torrent of outrage from Democrats, some conservatives suggested that the impulse to hold off on a dramatic increase in refugees showed sensitivity to the politics of immigration.

“This reflects Team Biden’s awareness that the border flood will cause record midterm losses *if* GOP keeps issue front & center,” tweeted Stephen Miller, a chief architect of Trump’s hard-line immigration platform.

Stephen Miller, the anti-immigration white supremacist who spent the last four years as FLG's hatchet man intent on destroying, usually illegally, the entire federal immigration effort to satisfy his lust for a lily-white America?

That Stephen Miller?

Let's just say that if your immigration initiative is praised by that hateful ghoul, you're doing it wrong.

More fundamentally, is anyone in the Biden Administration stupid enough to believe that tormenting refugees who have already been deemed safe to enter the United States will advance the cause of immigration reform even one millimeter?

And if so why?

We've seen this movie before and frankly, despite big name talent, it sucked. 

About 100 years ago, President Barack Obama decided that a great way to persuade Republicans to back immigration reform was to punish undocumented families by locking them up while their asylum cases languished in an overwhelmed hearing system:

The Obama administration largely abandoned family detention back in 2009 after facing widespread criticism and protests about the ethics of locking up mothers and children in immigrant detention.

Last year, however, facing an unprecedented illegal crossing of some 68,000 unaccompanied minors and a similar number of mothers traveling with their children, the Obama reinstituted family detention, arguing that it would act as a deterrent. The administration constructed a new, 2,400-bed family detention center in Dilley, Texas, last year and expanded capacity for family detention at a second center in Karnes County, Texas.

Both the Dilley and Karnes County centers are run as for-profit enterprises by private corporations. . . .

Turning away refugees: what could
go wrong? (1938 edition)
The Karnes County center has been the subject of numerous complaints of abuse. At least three women who participated in two hunger strikes this year protesting their detention and the detention of their children said they were placed in isolation with their kids as punishment. Guards at the detention center repeatedly told the protesting mothers that their children would be taken away if they continued, according to a lawsuit filed last month.

In October, the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund alleged that at least three employees sexually harassed or abused several women detained there.

The point of Obama's theater of cruelty was to persuade Republicans to compromise on broad immigration reform.  The number of Republicans persuaded by the show was reliably estimated to be approximately 0.000000.  Plus or minus.

Many Obama Administration veterans now serve in the Biden Administration and all are available to consult. Which of them advised that returning refugee admission levels to Obama-era levels would somehow reduce Republican pressure to torment noncitizens at the Southern border?

And why would that view even make sense?  If you're a white Republican bigot who senses political hay to be made by whining about the supposed hordes rampaging across the Rio Grande, why would you be mollified or deterred by cruel treatment of an entirely different group of refugees, who arrive at airports in small family groups greeted by relatives and volunteers and don't produce the thrilling video of Cancun Ted hiding in bulrushes, like Moses on meth? 

If that seems unlikely, ask yourself what it would take to reach out to hard-core white supremacists like Stephen Miller and the grifting sex criminal he still drinks Coke with.

Friday's flip-flop on admitting vetted refugees at their 2016 levels was so devoid of merit, both as a matter of policy and of politics, that it could only have been the work of a famously moderate Democratic genius like Rahm Emanuel.  Well, maybe Larry Summers had a hand in it.

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