Afghan Evac Flaws Cautionary Lesson For Ukraine
By Joe Guzzardi
More alarming details have come to light about how badly the Biden administration botched the Afghan evacuation. Instead of taking a deep breath, and committing itself to a more prudent – and legal – approach to resettlement and asylum, President Biden is jumping in feet first with the Ukrainians.
First, a review of the failures associated with the Afghan airlift. Last week, the Department of Justice revealed that several Afghans had allegedly bribed a Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserves in order to obtain a coveted Special Immigrant Visa. SIVs help expedite the resettlement process, and remove all possible doubt about the visa holder’s loyalty to America. Federal prosecutors filed visa fraud charges against 53-year-old Navy Reserves Commander Jeromy Pittmann of Pensacola, Fla., who wrote up more than 20 fake SIV recommendations which falsely claimed the Afghans had worked as translators for the U.S. Armed Forces. Pittman also alleged that he supervised the Afghans, a lie, and that unless they were granted SIV visas, they would be Taliban targets, and at risk for their lives. Pittmann now faces 20 years in a federal penitentiary.
Second, since August 2021, about 85,000 Afghans have been resettled in 46 states, many if not most of them improperly vetted against counterterrorism databases, a fact which Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas confirmed. A report released by the Department of Defense Inspector General harshly criticized Biden for his rushed, botched and numerically unlimited resettlement that allowed “significant security concerns” to take up U.S. residency.
DOD cannot locate at least 50 Afghans with possible terrorism ties and worries that “the U.S. government could mistakenly grant ineligible Afghan evacuees with derogatory information from the DOD Automated Biometric Identification System database SIV or parolee status.” Moreover, DOD concluded, Biden’s State Department and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services also could provide dangerous, unvetted Afghans with visas, Green Cards, and naturalized American citizenship.
Third, violent post-Kabul airlift crimes occurred almost immediately after the August 2021 airlift, proof that vetting was lax. In September 2021, the Western District of Wisconsin federal grand jury returned indictments on two Afghans that included sex acts with minors under age 16, and spousal assault by strangulation and suffocation. The perpetrators had been assigned temporary housing at Ft. McCoy, Wis., a military base that at one time housed nearly 13,000 Afghan evacuees.
The ongoing Afghan resettlement process is about eight months old, and no one can predict whether it will be successful or fraught with social and assimilation challenges much like the Somali refugees struggled with. Whatever the end result may be, Afghan resettlement is a huge, continuous and costly project that will take years to complete.
Nevertheless, the Biden administration is ready to embark on expedited processing of Afghan refugees “with open arms” even though the legal steps are years long, and cumbersome. But since the Biden administration’s indifference to immigration law is well-known internationally, some wealthy Ukrainians have decided to forego refugee status, and instead file asylum claims inside the U.S. after traveling through “safe countries” on route, and then getting past border officials.
Regulations require that asylum seekers must make their claim in the first safe country they reach, Poland, for instance. And Article 31 of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees stated specifically that illegal aliens or migrants cannot be denied the chance to seek asylum as long as they are “coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened.”
Recently, a group of Ukrainian migrants arrived at San Ysidro, Mexico, an international point of entry. But even though the Mexican government declared that special and immediate treatment will be given to migrants or people arriving from Ukraine for asylum purposes, the migrants’ destination is the U.S. Asylum claims should be denied to petitioners who pass through safe countries to reach the U.S.
Enforcing the safe country concept doesn’t mean that the U.S. will turn its back on migrants in danger. The idea instead is that instead of continuing what might be a perilous journey that covers hundreds of miles, for those truly in peril, the first safe haven may be the best place to begin a new life. Biden’s task is to enforce the safe country concept to ensure that Ukrainian or other asylum seekers don’t take unfair, undeserved advantage of U.S. generosity.
Joe Guzzardi writes about immigration issues and impacts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org