The arrival of 100,000 Ukrainians would be one of the largest resettlement operations in US history, but would only make a small dent in the light of the ten million displaced Ukrainians. The Biden administration also announced last week that the 75,000 Ukrainians already in the United States on student, tourist and business visas would receive temporary humanitarian protection from deportation, allowing them to apply for a work permit.
However, obstacles remain. At least 1,300 Ukrainians were arrested along the border with Mexico between November 1, 2021 and February 28, 2022. Although Biden raised the number of refugees the United States would admit to 125,000 during the current fiscal year, only 15,000 are expected to arrive. because of backlogs and bureaucratic blunders. Poland, which has only 38 million inhabitants, has already taken in more than two million refugees. (Poland also allows Western military weapons to pass through its territory for the Ukrainian army despite Putin’s threats.) (Germany accepted one million refugees from the Middle East in 2015 during the worst days of the Syrian war. )
Ironically, there is one nation that also mishandled the Ukrainian refugee crisis: Israel. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Israel had a “moral duty” to take in more refugees, especially non-Jewish refugees. But Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz don’t think so, and their right-wing interior minister, Ayelet Shaked, has taken a hard line on Jewish and non-Jewish refugees from Ukraine. Shaked announced that Israel would temporarily accept 5,000 non-Jewish refugees and would only allow the country’s 20,000 non-Jewish Ukrainians to stay until the fighting was over. Other Israeli extremists have warned that accepting refugees “would flood the State of Israel with good guys”.
In a virtual address to the Israeli parliament last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had to beg Israelis for more compassion, drawing the stark comparison of Ukraine’s suffering to that of the Jewish people during the Holocaust. . Zelensky reminded Israelis that Russia’s destruction of Ukraine was reminiscent of the Nazi “destruction” of Jews.
Instead of invoking “never again,” Bennett and Gantz decided to protect Israeli relations with Russia in order to keep their hands free in their operations against Iranian forces in Syria. Bennett is also trying to protect his relationship with the ultra-Orthodox community, which opposed immigrants from Ethiopia and Sudan in the 1990s as well as immigrants from Ukraine today. Several years ago, Bennett’s predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, rejected requests from Ukraine and Estonia to buy powerful spyware – the Pegasus system – to hack into Russian cellphones. Israel has voluntarily sold Pegasus to several authoritarian governments (including Hungary, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) that use the spyware as a tool for domestic repression. Israel also refused to sell its Iron Dome anti-missile system to Ukraine along with other defensive systems, and refused to impose economic sanctions on Russia.
The United States was once much better at handling refugee resettlement. After the Vietnam War ended, the United States resettled more than 130,000 Vietnamese refugees. In 1999, the Clinton administration evacuated more than 20,000 Kosovar refugees from Macedonia to the United States. There is no indication, however, that Biden plans to airlift Ukrainians to the United States. The Trump administration has imposed onerous restrictions on the asylum system and as a result, more than 670,000 cases are pending in various immigration courts.
Unlike the recent evacuation of Afghans, Kosovars were considered refugees under US law, giving them access to assistance, legal residency and family reunification. Meanwhile, thousands of Afghans remain warehoused in American-run treatment centers in Europe. Afghans are without status, unable to apply for lawful permanent residence and have no right to reunite with their spouse or children. Congress, for its part, has yet to pass legislation to establish a pathway to lawful permanent residency and family reunification. And I didn’t mention the nightmare faced by refugees from Central and South America. To paraphrase President Barack Obama, “that’s not who we are.” Where is it?
Excerpt: “Biden has a chance to properly resolve the refugee issue.”
Courtesy of: Counterpunch.org