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Biden To Prioritize Journalists, LGBT People Among Ukrainian Refugees

Biden's plan to bring in 100,000 Ukrainians repeats the mistakes made in the aftermath of the U.S. withdrawal of Afghanistan.

The Biden administration is preparing to admit up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees into the United States, a U.S. official traveling with President Joe Biden reportedly told members of the media Thursday.

Of course, the administration plans to prioritize the most vulnerable. No, not women and children, but journalists and people who identify as LGBTQ. While it’s somewhat easier to verify whether a refugee is a journalist, there’s no real means of verifying a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity—authorities more or less have to take the person’s word for it. To make good on its promise, the official said the U.S. is “working in particular to expand and develop new programs with a focus on welcoming Ukrainians who have family members in the United States.” The Biden administration plans to use not only the typical refugee-admissions program, but the parole system as well as immigrant and non-immigrant visas.

As the Russian invasion enters its second month, the United Nations has estimated that more than 10 million people have been displaced, 3.6 million of whom have left the country. The European Union claims it has accepted 3.5 million Ukrainian refugees thus far. It has allowed Ukrainian migrants to enter without a visa, given them the right to work in the E.U. for two years, and provided them with food, housing, and educational resources. The bulk of the Ukrainian migrants who have recently arrived in the E.U. entered via Poland, which has accepted 2.2 million refugees, and is now appealing for British and American aid to care for the refugees.

The Biden administration remains confident that most of the Ukrainian refugees want to remain in Europe. Nevertheless, even if most of these Ukrainian refugees do remain in Europe—hopefully in the E.U.’s periphery, to make repatriation easy at the war’s end—that does not mean a high number of Ukrainian refugees would not have a significant impact on American culture, especially in localities where refugees settle in large concentrations. Never mind the impact on an already overwhelmed U.S. immigration system, which already has a six-year backlog to hear cases. To make matters worse, local immigration-support organizations are already stretched for resources because of the recent influx of Afghans.

The Biden administration set the refugee cap for fiscal year 2022 at 125,000 refugees. Of those 125,000 slots, only 10,000 have been allocated for Europe and Central Asia. Therefore, the Biden administration’s efforts to take in Ukrainian refugees would nearly double the number of potential refugees entering the U.S., and increase the potential refugees from Europe and Central Asia tenfold. If the Biden administration accepted just one tenth of the approximately 10 million people that have been displaced by the invasion, that would double the number of immigrants the U.S. typically allows to enter the country in a given year.

Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, told The American Conservative that despite the Biden administration’s willingness to take in an additional 100,000 Ukrainians, “there’s no way they would’ve reached that original 125,000 target.

“If you look at the past few months of refugee admissions, the numbers are pretty low for practical reasons,” Krikorian said. “They can’t get them out to the contractors that the State Department pays because a lot of those contractors’ infrastructure isn’t there. Since Trump cut down on refugee numbers a lot of them shut down the refugee offices because they weren’t getting paid anymore.”

But that’s not going to prevent the Biden administration from trying by using parole, as the U.S. official claimed.

The parole system is the result of a provision in the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 that allows the Department of Homeland Security (and, prior to the DHS Secretary, the attorney general), to parole aliens into the United States “for emergent reasons or for reasons deemed strictly in the public interest.”

“Immigration parole is not criminal parole, where you’re let out on parole after your sentence is done,” Krikorian told TAC. “Immigration parole is more like parole used in the military sense, like if you were a POW or if you were an officer, you could be paroled rather than held, but what that meant is you had to give your word that you won’t reenter combat. But what it means is you’re let into the country even if you don’t qualify for any kind of visa.”

The parole system was originally intending to be used on a case by case basis in only the most extreme circumstances. That changed in 1956, when the Eisenhower administration “interpreted very broadly the parole authority” to allow Hungarians fleeing the USSR’s crackdown of the Hungarian revolution, according to legal scholar Arnold H. Leibowitz. “Prior to 1956, the parole authority had been used only to benefit individual aliens.”

Almost every presidential administration since has used parole to pursue its immigration priorities, circumventing Congress and expanding executive power in the process.

“Presidents of both parties have been using it [parole] promiscuously, and it’s used as their parallel immigration policy that lets them bring in anybody they feel like,” Krikorian said.

Jan Ting, a professor at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, said in her 2015 testimony to Congress that parole was never intended “for broad categories of beneficiaries defined by nationality who would not qualify as refugees or for admission under established immigration admission policies.”

Nevertheless, the Obama administration was particularly willing to exploit the parole system. After a surge in unaccompanied minors and family units attempting to cross the border in the summer of 2014, the Obama administration created the Central American Minors (CAM) refugee and parole program, which allowed the administration to bring in large numbers of migrants who otherwise wouldn’t qualify. It also created the Haitian Family Reunion Program to escape statutory limits on the number of visas available for individuals with family members in the United States (these visas enable what is often referred to as “chain migration”). The Haitian Family Reunion Program allowed Haitians to join family members in the U.S. for two years prior to receiving the visa without which they would have been previously unable to enter the United States.

These abuses have continued apace under the Biden administration. Though we are just over a year into President Biden’s term, the Biden administration has used the parole power to let in thousands of individuals by both the continuation of existing programs and the creation of new ones, specifically for Afghan evacuees.

“The majority of the Afghans who came in last summer and trickled in after didn’t have visas or didn’t qualify for visas. They were literally just paroled into the United States, which is to say that the executive branch just waved them in,” Krikorian added. “It’s pretty amazing.”

As Krikorian suggested, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas used the parole power on a categorical basis to allow about 100,000 Afghans to enter the U.S. without visas or proper vetting after America’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. Once Afghan parolees arrived on U.S. soil and were administered required vaccinations, they were able to leave the facilities in which they were being held, according to a February report from the Department of Defense’s Office of the Inspector General. These Afghans immediately became eligible for work permits, as the Biden administration ordered U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to expedite the granting of work permits prior to the completion of background checks and other kinds of vetting. To no one’s surprise, once these Afghans got their work permits and left their safe havens, the DOD “could not locate some Afghan evacuees whom NGIC personnel identified as having derogatory information that would make them ineligible for” programs to which the Biden administration had already admitted them.

American citizens are already suffering the consequences of the Biden administration’s decision. Some of these Afghan parolees have gone on to commit violent crimes, including rape.

Because the Biden administration undercut the already inadequate vetting process for individuals paroled into the U.S., upwards of 50 individuals with serious security concerns have been paroled into the U.S. An Inspector General report said that as early as November of 2021, the National Ground Intelligence Center “had identified 50 Afghan personnel in the United States with information in DOD records that would indicate potentially significant security concerns.” A footnote attached to this claim said these “significant security concerns include individuals whose latent fingerprints have been found on improvised explosive devices and known or suspected terrorists and for which the NGIC sends derogatory information notifications to appropriate DoD personnel.”

Despite all this, the Biden administration has failed to learn its lesson, and is poised to repeat its mistakes.