*Emma Lazarus – 1883
**U.S. Department of Homeland Security – 2021
Earlier this week I caught MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell in an exclusive interview with Homeland Security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas . Both Mayorkas, and the Biden administration, have been under fire recently for the on-going, and escalating crisis, at the southern border.
To his credit, Mayorkas did a good job explaining to Mitchell that the mess they inherited from the previous administration required a complete rebuild of the process, procedures and facilities to get back on track, and that the department is fully devoted to getting there.
And then Mitchell switched gears and asked this:
Mitchell: I want to ask you about Cuba because you came, you fled, from Cuba as a boy, how do you feel about human rights groups, refugee groups criticizing you, Cuban Americans criticizing you for your messaging to Cuba and Haiti don’t come here don’t try to get here illegally. Don’t get on those boats. even with your own family background.
Mayorkas: So, this is a very difficult topic for me personally. My family lost everything they had in Cuba and we came here to the United states and I’ll look where I am look where I am now.
Mitchell: It’s an amazing personal story.
Mayorkas: It’s the power of America. The message that I communicated, the message that our administration is communicating is one that we stand with the Cuban people and against the repression that the authoritarian regime is exercising against the Cuban people. But we also deliver a message of humanity which is, do not take to the seas. You know in two weeks’ time we rescued many, many families that tried to do that and we saw 20 deaths occur in just a couple weeks. It’s a perilous journey. It’s an unsafe journey and there’s an orderly way to seek relief under United States law and taking to the seas is not it.
Mitchell: Do you think there could be some way to let people in legally, to let more Cubans in if, judging from the protests, if they now want to leave.
Mayorkas: Well, we accept claims for asylum through the ports of entry that is the safe orderly and humane way to proceed.
Mitchell moved on to another subject, DACA, without asking the obvious question:
“With all due respect, Mr. Secretary, how would you suggest these oppressed people get to our ports of entry? Cuba is an island. If they don’t take to the seas, what other means does the American government suggest they use to escape from what you characterize as an oppressive, authoritarian regime?“
If ever there was an opportunity for a follow-up question, this was it…and Andrea whiffed.
Soon after watching this exchange I read about another mishandling of people who might be appropriately termed, “The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” I’m talking about the Afghan translators and others who assisted U.S. forces and are being left behind as American and NATO forces pull-out from Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan, a crisis is mounting. Taliban and other insurgents are targeting Afghan citizens who aided U.S. forces. As U.S. and NATO troops completely withdraw from Afghanistan within the next few weeks, thousands of Afghans who worked as interpreters, translators, drivers, cooks, cultural advisors and staff for the U.S. military and other U.S. government agencies fear being stranded.
From The New York Times:
An additional 4,000 Afghans who worked with American forces, many of them interpreters, had been approved to relocate to the United States with their families in light of the withdrawal of U.S. troops, State Department officials said on Wednesday.
But officials added that evacuations were only taking place out of Kabul, the capitol, and any eligible Afghans in remote areas were on their own in figuring out how to make the difficult, and likely dangerous, journey if they wanted to take advantage of the offer.
“In order to come on an evacuation flight, they would have to get themselves to Kabul,” a senior official, who requested anonymity in order to discuss the plan in detail, said on a call with reporters. “Obviously, we don’t have extensive U.S. military presence. We don’t have the ability to provide transportation for them.”
“If they’re staying in the north of the country and they don’t feel safe staying in Afghanistan, they could go to a neighboring country” and finish their application process there, the official added.
The United States also will not provide security to applicants outside Kabul, many of whom are under direct threat from the Taliban for cooperating with coalition forces during the war.
If you didn’t read the Times excerpt carefully, let me help you:
- evacuations were only taking place out of Kabul, the capitol, and any eligible Afghans in remote areas were on their own in figuring out how to make the difficult, and likely dangerous, journey if they wanted to take advantage of the offer.
- “If they’re staying in the north of the country and they don’t feel safe staying in Afghanistan, they could go to a neighboring country”
- The United States also will not provide security to applicants outside Kabul, many of whom are under direct threat from the Taliban for cooperating with coalition forces during the war.
What’s the expression I’m looking for. Oh yeah, “easy-peasy.”
On top of this, the Times reports:
…the SIV (Special Immigrant Visa) program, administered by the State Department, is slow and hampered by administrative problems. The process is intended to take nine months to complete, but some applicants have waited years. A 2020 review by the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General cites insufficient staffing and the absence of a centralized database.
Today, there are over 18,000 SIV applicants in Afghanistan waiting for approval to come to the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said about half of these are in the early stages of the application process.
By the way, while we’re messing around with this bureaucratic SNAFU, the Taliban are overtaking almost all the territory they had lost and are hunting down and killing the Afghanis who helped and supported our forces.
So, we deplore the plight of the good people of Cuba suffering under a repressive, authoritarian regime, but we can’t help them unless they come to one of our ports of entry…which they cannot. And, there are thousands of Afghani citizens who helped our effort in the longest war in American history whom we’re leaving behind to be killed because our bureaucracy can’t figure out how to expedite their removal.
Now, I’m not a diplomat; I’m not a logistics specialist. And I know it’s easier sitting on the outside than actually making things happen. But how about this:
- Cuba: Station rescue ships outside Cuban territorial waters to pick up the refugees on those boats so that we can safely bring them to our ports of entry to process them properly and provide the asylum they richly deserve.
- Afghanistan: With our remaining troops, gather these loyal-to-the-U.S. Afghani citizens outside Kabul as best we can. Bring them to Kabul. And airlift them all to the U.S. regardless of their visa status. Process them once they get here. If there are bad guys among the good guys, deal with them as appropriate…but the priority is to help the people who helped us, and do so immediately before they’re killed. Sort out the details later.
And BTW, start every Cuban refugee and every Afghan ally on a Covid-19 vaccine regime as soon as they get here –– as we’re beginning to do, thanks to Secretary Mayorkas, at the Southern Border.
If we don’t do this, we might as well replace the Statue of Liberty with the Statue of Emily (Litella). And remove’s Emma Lazurus’ poem and replace it with, “Never Mind!”