That time the Biden administration got the immigration process right

That time the Biden administration got the immigration process right
AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

The flood of Ukrainians leaving their war-torn country is creating a humanitarian crisis in neighboring countries. Poland, in particular, is trying to cope with the majority of Ukrainian refugees. Joe Biden said that the United States will welcome Ukrainians with open arms yet so far only seven have been allowed to cross the border. On Friday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said it’s all about the paperwork.

Is the Biden administration actually getting something right in the immigration process? I’m as surprised as anyone by a nod to the legal immigration process that came from Psaki when she was asked why only seven Ukrainian refugees have been admitted to the United States so far, given Biden’s statement that they will be welcomed. I’ll note, however, the irony of holding up Ukrainians at the border while the Biden administration turns a blind eye to other migrants who illegally cross the southern border every day.

As early as January a spike was seen in Ukrainian and Russian migrants at the border. Putin’s build-up of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine prompted citizens of both countries to leave. This month Biden designated Ukrainians for temporary protected status. This status protects them from deportation and allows those eligible to receive work permits while their asylum claims are being processed. The policy for Ukrainians is temporary and will last for eighteen months.

The implementation of Title 42 is expected to end soon because the pandemic mandates and mitigation measures are ending. Illegal migrants are immediately expelled from the border under Title 42 out of public health concerns, like during a pandemic. DHS Secretary Mayorkas reminded Border Patrol agents and other law enforcement at the southern border this week that exceptions can be made at their discretion under Title 42. That reminded me of a story that Senator Chuck Schumer told about a Ukrainian woman and her children being turned away at the border three times using Title 42. However, they continued to try to gain entrance because they were vaccinated and had proof of vaccination and tested negative for COVID-19. My question at the time was whether or not we can trust DHS to properly vet and process a wave of Ukrainian refugees when it has so miserably failed to do so for the flood of migrants from around the world. And, let’s not forget how poorly the process has gone for Afghan refugees brought to the United States.

But, if the administration is finally doing it right and making sure the migration process is being upheld, I will give credit where credit is due. Mind you, as a frequent critic of this administration’s approach to the border, the self-inflicted Biden border crisis, I’m skeptical that they will get it right with the Ukrainian refugees. Biden once again got out in front of it and said the U.S. will welcome them with open arms, just as he campaigned for president promising to end deportations and most enforcement measures at the southern border. Thus, the current humanitarian and public health crisis on the border. He makes sweeping statements before actual policy is in place.

But in the three weeks since Russia first invaded, the US has accepted just seven Ukrainians – and some of those have been detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

When challenged about Biden’s failure to keep his promise, Psaki claimed it was a matter of paperwork. She did not address why many other countries had been able to take in hundreds of thousands of people.

‘We are still implementing our immigration laws at the border,’ Psaki said when asked. ‘When the president says he would welcome refugees, of course he would, but they have to apply through the refugee programs,’ she added.

Psaki also noted that Title 42 – a Trump-era program that grants the government ‘power to prohibit, in whole or in part, the introduction of persons and property’ to stop a contagious disease from spreading – is still in effect, making it difficult for people to come over the boarder during the pandemic.

Frankly, I don’t anticipate a wave of Ukrainian refugees at our southern border. I think most Ukrainians hope to return home once the war is over and if that isn’t possible, I think they want to stay in the region. They have shown us that they are fiercely proud and patriotic people who are fighting for the sovereignty of their country.

Mayorkas said this week that DHS is looking into fast-tracking Ukrainian refugees. American taxpayers are providing millions of dollars in humanitarian aid yet, realistically speaking, there must be a plan for Ukrainian refugees who come to the United States. The cities in Europe being overwhelmed with refugees now will likely ask Americans to accept refugees.

The refugee resettlement process, however, is complex and time-consuming, with very few avenues to expediting cases from the point they are referred to the U.S. by the United Nations refugee agency, through the vetting process, to their resettlement in a local community.

But Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed the administration is “looking at things that we can do ourselves and do directly.”

“As this and if this goes on, as the numbers increase, as the burden increases for European partners, we will certainly do everything we can to help,” he added Thursday, saying it was “something we’re very focused on right now” and previewing “more to say on this in the coming.”

As I said, I’m skeptical that the Biden administration will handle the Ukrainian refugee process with competence, as they have a track record of showing ineptness. DHS and other departments like the State Department and DOJ are preparing for a new wave of illegal migrants when Title 42 ends. They have established a war room to plan a strategic response, if the reporting is correct. We’ll see if they follow through. There is still the Biden border crisis with mass migration from Central American countries as well as countries around the world at our southern border that has existed since Biden took office.

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