NewsWorldOPINION | Afghanistan: another immigration problem for Biden

OPINION | Afghanistan: another immigration problem for Biden


Editor’s note: Jorge G. Castañeda is a CNN contributor. He was Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs from 2000 to 2003. He is currently a professor at New York University and his most recent book, “America Through Foreign Eyes,” was published by Oxford University Press in 2020. The opinions expressed in this comment are only from the author. You can find more opinion pieces at

(CNN Spanish) – No one can know how many Afghans will arrive in the United States in the coming months. Some will be beneficiaries of the SIVs; that is to say, holders of special immigrant visas Awarded to those who worked with US forces in Afghanistan during these 20 years: translators, clerks, quartermaster personnel, etc.

Others will be retired military personnel and their families, that is, members of the elite troops formed by the US during their time in the country, or the so-called occupation, as its critics call it.

Finally, there will be an indeterminate number of refugees, in the strict sense of the word: people who for one reason or another, different from the previous causes, have a well-founded fear for their lives if they remain in the country, controlled again by the Taliban: activists, women in certain categories, journalists, social workers, etc.

President Joe Biden has suggested that it could be a number of tens of thousands of evacuees from Afghanistan, without specifying the proportion of that total that would end up settling in the United States. Some other estimates are higher, either from the extreme right, which opposes its reception, or from refugee defense groups who believe that Washington should be especially generous to those persecuted by a regime that defeated it. In any case, this is a ridiculous total for a country of 330 million people, or for one that received almost three million refugees from Indochina in 1975.

The problem is that one is numerical reality and the other, politics. For Biden, this is a new front in the battle that has cost him the most: immigration. It is well known that the only area in which the president’s approval figures have remained consistently low is immigration. Almost two-thirds disapproved of his policy on the southern border, sometimes mistaking facts for intentions, according to an ABC / Ipsos survey of July 31, 2021. It is a fact that the number of arrivals and arrests on the border with Mexico has seriously increased since February; It is not so true that this is due to the position of the White House to reverse the xenophobic atrocities of Donald Trump.

But the Republicans proclaim so, and now they will add the withdrawal from Afghanistan. In other words, the compelling moral and political need for the United States to receive any Afghan refugee in real danger or who has collaborated with the United States adds to the compelling need for Joe Biden to fulfill his campaign promises regarding to undocumented workers, dreamers, asylum seekers from the Northern Triangle, Cuba, Venezuela and Haiti.

Furthermore, Biden’s slim majority in the House and Senate may now fade from considering immigration bills. It would be a tragedy.

Biden has kept some of his commitments. Removed restrictions for asylum seekers from certain countries; He proposed to Congress an ambitious immigration reform that contemplates the legalization of many undocumented immigrants; eliminated the “Migration Protection Protocol” (MPP) or so-called “Remain in Mexico” program, which forced Central American asylum seekers to wait for their hearing in Mexican territory, under abominable conditions; He insisted on trying again to regularize all DACA “dreamers” or recipients. But he left intact the Trumpian resource of the so-called Title 42 that allows the US government to deport, for public health reasons, anyone who enters the country without papers. This has led to the massive deportation of Central Americans, many of whom are sent by plane to the Mexican southeast, where the authorities often direct some to Guatemala without further consideration. But Biden did not dare to cancel the application of Title 42, and now he is enforcing it with greater vigor than Trump himself. A Supreme Court ruling forced Biden to reinstate Trump’s policy.

As for the MPP, a federal judge found it illegal for Biden to have canceled it; the administration appealed and later requested a ruling from the Supreme Court. But it does not appear to have done what is necessary, namely, to convince the Government of Mexico not to accept the procedure anymore.

It will be recalled that, in May 2019, Trump threatened President Andrés Manuel López Obrador with applying tariffs of up to 25% to exports from Mexico to the United States if he did not prevent the arrival of Central Americans at the bilateral border. AMLO then accepted the shameful “Remain in Mexico” scheme. But nothing forces him to accept it now, especially if the United States government itself opposes the heinous protocol.

Biden doesn’t want another problem But if you accept the blackmail of some Republicans on Afghan refugees, or in matters of dreamers, undocumented workers, Central American asylum seekers (among others), immigration reform and Title 42 itself, he will embark on a dangerous path for his electoral prospects in 2022. His decision to execute the withdrawal from Afghanistan (because it was Trump who initially decided it) maintains the majority support of public opinion, despite criticism – some justified. He hasn’t lost his left wing, for now. You must avoid losing it from now on, and the immigration issue is decisive for that wing and not to lose it.


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