Open the Doors to Refugees — All of Them

A map depicting which countries Ukrainian refugees are fleeing into. Source.

The United States is morally derelict in the abysmally few Ukrainian refugees we’ve taken in since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Which is to say, we’ve taken essentially zero. As CNN notes in this report, we’ve taken 690 since October 2021, but essentially zero since the war actually started.

[The actual number in the first two weeks of March is seven. No, that is not a typo. So, yes, it’s not zero, but good grief.]

Alex Nowrasteh, the director of economic and social policy at the Cato Institute, who particularly focuses on immigration and refugees, and is my go-to guy on the issue, pointed out in a Tweet yesterday the startling numbers:

Since the war began, 3,557,245 Ukrainians, or 8.64 percent of the country’s pre-war population of 44.13 million people, have fled from the invasion. That’s in 26 days. Keep in mind, that isn’t accounting for the internally displaced residents still within Ukraine (meaning, they’re fleeing from one part of the country to another), which is currently at about 6.5 million people. As Nowrasteh notes, an internally displaced person is a soon-to-be refugee.

There is nothing comparable to that sort of exodus, as Nowrasteh calls it, in modern history.

Thank goodness for neighboring Poland, who is actually stepping up, as they’ve taken 59.4 percent of the refugees (and they are not in refugee camps, but apartments), or tantamount to increasing its population by 5.6 percent in less than a month.

The equivalent of that for the United States would be if we took in 18.5 million refugees. We should be. We should take as many people as who want to come to the United States, Ukrainians, Yemenis, Afghanis, Syrians, all refugees. Russians, too!

All immigrants, too. Open the doors! Open all the doors!

The United States should not militarily get involved in Ukraine, and as understandable as it is that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is imploring the West via the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (and the U.S. in a direct plea to Congress recently) to institute a no-fly zone over Ukraine, we should also not do that, as doing so is getting militarily involved in a dangerous, escalatory way.

But, the thing we can do, which is not only a moral imperative, but if you’re into other reasons, too, then it’s also the most economically, strategically, simple and smart thing to do is allow as many refugees to come to the United States as possible, including allowing Russians to come to the United States on visas, to “brain drain” the Russians. Granted, from what I’ve heard, we’ve made that difficult with our economic sanctions. As in, Russians who may want to flee the country are having difficulty leaving because they can’t access their banks and such.

There were many compelling arguments for why a libertarian would vote for Joe Biden for President of the United States in November 2020 instead of either abstaining as a form of protest, voting third party, or writing in a candidate in protest. Chief among those reasons: 1.) Donald Trump being manifestly unfit for the office, and worse, a danger to the institutions — everything else is secondary to that foundational problem; 2.) That Biden is a rather inoffensive character in terms of being a lightning rod in either direction for the culture wars — nobody is making a cult of personality around Biden; and 3.) Libertarians, at least the ones I respect, hold up immigration and refugee resettlement as one of the top priorities to fix because it is one of the most barbaric, inhumane ways in which the United States government interferes with the lives of people the world over, arguably only behind war itself — and Biden promised to be a step in the right direction on that front, especially compared to a potential second term for Trump.

And yet. The first two reasons are holding up fine more than a year into Biden’s first term, but the third item? We might as well be in Trump’s second term with the way Biden has operated with respect to immigration and refugees. Yes, that’s hyperbolic to some extent because at least you can argue the rhetoric is better (action would be even better, but rhetoric matters, too), and that at least we know there are people inside the administration who are fighting for it and that Biden can be swayed, as he was with his initial cap on refugees. That was when Biden was sticking with Trump’s historically low number of 15,000, and then after outcry, went up to … 62,500. Still pathetic, but at least it showed a willingness to bend that you wouldn’t see with Trump. A low bar, I know.

The reason this is particularly frustrating is because when it comes to immigration and refugees, the executive branch — the president — has a lot more leeway than they do on other issues because of the thicket that is our immigration and refugee system. Again … and yet.

You know something is off-kilter and reflective of how far we’ve strayed on this issue when a Democrat is in the White House and is accepting hundreds of thousands of refugees fewer than was the norm under a Republican White House in the 1980s (and yes, the Republican Party itself has strayed drastically from that period as well).

Slash through the thicket. Cut all the red tape. Let’s go. What we waiting for?

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