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October 29th , 2023 Len’s Letter #69  Migrants in America and the World

Making sense of the international migration numbers is not easy.  The United Nations refugee agency reports that, at the end of 2022 there were 108.4 million forcibly displaced people world-wide.  Out of 8.94 billion people in the world, 1.4% of them are forcibly displaced; people who, according to the UN definition, are required to leave their homes because of persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations, or serious disturbances of the public order.

Of that 108.4 million, 62.5 million of them are displaced in their own country; 35.3 million have already been awarded refugee status in other countries, 5.4 million are seeking asylum in other countries, and 5.2 million are otherwise in need of international protection.

About 18.5 million of the 35.3 million refugees, says the UN, come from three countries:

  • Syria
  • Ukraine
  • Afghanistan

These people escaped wars.

About 13.4 million of the 35.3 million refugees are currently living in five countries

  • Turkey 6 million                     Most come from Syria
  • Iran 4 million                          Most come from Afghanistan
  • Colombia 5 million                 Most come from Venezuela
  • Germany 1 million                  Most come from Syria, some from Afghanistan
  • Pakistan 7 million                   Most come from Afghanistan

The UN says that 70% of refugees are in neighboring countries. Why is that?  Because they hope to return home?  Because they want to be in a country with food, customs, clothing similar to what they have had at home? Because there is a limit to their imagination?

Ask a different question.  How many refugees live in the United States?  The United Nations, the International Rescue Committee, and every other source says that since 1975, 3.5 million refugees have settled in the United States. Why is that total not in the UN compilation?  I have no idea, but most of these people have been integrated into American society and many have become citizens.  They are not living in refugee camps.

The United States sets a cap on admission of refugees.  Currently, the cap is 125,000 people.  Notwithstanding that cap, the United States has settled about 30,000 refugees per year in the last two years. The United States is currently on track to double that annual number.  If resettling these refugees were the migrant problem, there would be no migrant controversy in the United States.

The UN reports there are 5.4 million people in the world seeking asylum in countries other than their country of origin. (Remember: Refugees are people who are granted asylum)   The number of people granted asylum in the United States annually is relatively small —  in the tens of thousands.  USA Facts explains there are two kinds of asylum seekers: Affirmative asylum seekers have submitted an asylum request before entering the country.  Defensive asylum seekers apply for asylum after entering the US in order to avoid deportation.

Even though refugees have been integrated into our society, another group has been only partly integrated. More than 11 million undocumented or illegal immigrants live in the United States.  There are two kinds.  Those who entered the United States without a legal visa and those who entered with a legal visa such as a tourist visa and then extended their stay beyond the visa’s expiration date.  The latter group commit a civil violation.  What they have done is not a crime.  Visa extenders may be nearly half of the population of those living in the United States without a legal status.  Even if there are a lot of visa extenders, they do not generate controversy.

The United States southern border generates controversy.  Is there an invasion of migrants?  Most reporting describes the number of encounters the Customs and Border Protection Service has by members of various groups — Accompanied Minors, Individuals in a Family Unit, Single Adults, or Unaccompanied Children.  Encounters is a useful statistic for measuring how busy the people patrolling the border are, it does not tell us how many migrants enter the United States – with or without authorization.  Nevertheless, there are a lot of encounters.  In the Fiscal Year that ended in September 2022, there were 2.38 million encounters.  In the Fiscal year that ended in September, 2023, when they get the figures all counted, the number will be higher.  One report claimed it would reach 3 million.

During a period that ended in May, 2023 most encounters led to a migrant being deported immediately. Under Title 42, adopted by the Trump administration as a protection against the spread of Covid, entrance was denied.  The US Supreme Court declared the use of Title 42 no longer valid. The Biden administration had to figure out how to manage the numbers of migrants who could have a legitimate asylum claim which, if successful, would allow them to remain permanently in the United States as refugees.

The Biden administration’s response has been to create a process to admit about 1,500 asylum seekers per day who have made appointments through a Smart Phone – making these people Affirmative Asylum Seekers rather than Defensive ones.  Others who continue to enter the country are given a choice between a voluntary return and deportation.  Those who choose deportation are required to have an asylum hearing before an immigration court.

Now we get to the crisis.  Because there is a 2 million case back-log for those hearings, migrants feel they have a lengthy delay during which time they can hope positive developments occur.  One reporter cited a migrant explaining his sister-in-law had made it through without being deported, why couldn’t he?  Another reporter cited border staff, overwhelmed by the numbers, just waiving people in.

Camilo Montoya-Galvez, reporting for CBS on October 1 noted that the combination of tougher consequences imposed by the Biden administration while expanding opportunities for legal consideration has reduced the number of immigrants from Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua, but not from other Central American countries, Venezuela, Africa, or Asia.  China, the United States reports, is the country of origin of the largest number of asylum seekers.  One solution to the immigration crisis would be a huge increase in the number of immigration judges. Perhaps temporary immigration judges would eliminate the backlog and allow the newest immigrants to be processed, that is to allow them to have their asylum claim considered quickly and efficiently.

Processing immigrants when they arrive or shortly thereafter is a solution that no one seems to want.  Perhaps Members of Congress fear that temporary judges might grant asylum to too many or too few, depending on your perspective or understanding of the law.  Perhaps the Republicans prefer to have an issue to blame on Joe Biden.

Recent efforts to move migrants to non-border states has expanded the visibility of the problem. In generations past, reporters explain, immigrants to the United States found relatives or compatriots to help.  The formalization of our policies makes everything more public.  Moreover, the cost of the obligation to provide shelter to the homeless, where that is obligatory, has driven even a blue state figure like the Governor of New York, Kathy Hochul, to call for a limit to the number of those who can come across the border. That the US sets a substantial amount of time between the asylum request and permission to work places the burden of housing and otherwise supporting people who are not allowed to support themselves by working on cities and states where asylum seekers are housed.

Managing migrants is not only a problem of western countries. How western countries deal with migration, though, is extremely important.   Except for the fact that so many more refugees come to the EU by boat rather than overland, the problem the European countries face resembles America’s problem. When the European countries are more welcoming than the US, as Germany was in admitting a million refugees from Syria, a backlash is created.

There are those who would create hard solutions.  Build walls.  Use barbed wire. Shoot those who persist.  Or drown then.  There is a cost to those solutions.  When Donald Trump called for and implemented plans to separate children from the adults who they were with, the cruelty was felt by the children and their families. That cruelty made us all cruel.

Nevertheless, we need to have a way to know how many migrants there are who should be admitted somewhere.  We need to know how many asylum seekers we (The United States) should admit.  We cannot admit all of the refugees in the world. Nor can we admit all of those in the world who are eligible for asylum.  Some can be expected to go to other countries.  Or to wait.  Those who are “required to leave their homes because of persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations, or serious disturbances of the public order” deserve an international as well as an American solution.

We can move toward that solution if we have a standard for deciding the number of refugees a country or a state should accept.  Creating that standard, we can take into account

  1. The total number of international migrants who have been forced to leave their homes and have become refugees.
  2. Proximity of the admitting country to the turbulence creating migrant refugees.
  3. Total population of the admitting country
  4. National wealth of the admitting country
  5. Relative freedom of the admitting country
  6. A penalty (as the EU may be developing) for countries that reject admitting their fair share of migrants and/or refuse to incorporate the migrants into their society.

I will not make the calculations. I cannot do it. I certainly cannot do it for this piece.  It might take a United Nations committee a few years to make the calculations.  A group of academics might be more efficient.  Or not.

Despite working to sound retrograde (and generally succeeding), Elon Musk has said we should greatly increase the number of migrants we admit; that we should admit everyone who is honest, hard-working, and will contribute to the country. Even if I had the authority, I would not trust him enough to turn the calculating job over to him. But someone could do that calculating.

It would be great to be able to give Kathy Hochul and a few other politicians a number they can work with even if the number was informally developed.  That informally developed number would be the reasonable number of migrants their country and/or state should admit and an explanation of why that is a reasonable number.

With a little enterprise, we could get there.

Don’t forget.  Keep donating to Joe Biden/Kamala Harris

 Nearly the last time you will hear the November, 2023 elections

Election day                                               November 7, 2023
Louisiana run-off election day           November 18, 2023
November 7 is a few days away and November 18 comes soon after that. 

Democratic State Supreme Court Justice candidate:
Dan McCaffrey                                Pennsylvania, Currently an Appellate Judge.  Len’s Political Note #571

Democrats for Governor:
Incumbent Andy Beshear            Kentucky, Formerly, the Attorney General. Len’s Political Note #533
Brandon Presley                            Mississippi, Formerly one of three elected public service commissioners. Len’s Political Note #535

Attorney General
Colonel Pamela Stevenson          Kentucky, former Senior Official in the Air Force Judge Advocate system and state rep Len’s Political Note #561

Greta Kemp Martin                        Mississippi, Litigation Director for Disability Rights Mississippi running against a Republican who truly deserves to be defeated. Len’s Political Note #563

State Treasurer
Dustin Granger                               Louisiana, Financial Advisor. Len’s Political Note #562
Dustin Granger was the only Democrat, in any state-wide race in Louisiana, to get more than 30% of the vote in the multi-party primary.  With 32% of the vote, he trailed former State Rep John Fleming’s 44%.  Dustin Granger is still in the race.  I am still donating to him. So should you.

Secretary of State
Buddy Wheatley                             Kentucky, Former Fire Chief and former state rep.  Len’s Political Note #582

For a Democratic legislature in Virginia that can stand up to a Republican governor make some last-minute donations.  

Virginia House of Delegates: Kimberly Pope Adams, Jessica Anderson, Joshua Cole, Michael Feggans, Susanna Gibson, Josh Thomas. See Len’s Political Note #573 of July 6, 2023
Virginia State Senate: Clint Jenkins, Monty Mason, Russet Perry, Danica Roem, Schuyler VanValkenburg.   Len’s Political Note #573 of July 10, 2023