Eric Not Enrique: Political and Social Factors Affecting Aid for Immigrants in the United States

– Executive Summary

When responding to humanitarian crises, the United States lacks a uniform process for handling migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, resulting in uneven treatment. Programs like Uniting for Ukraine provided swift sponsorship to Ukrainians while Operation Allies Welcome for Afghans faced criticism for its limitations, and the Welcome Corps excluded some Afghans.[1] Haitians lack specialized programs despite severe volatility at home. Without widespread reform, U.S. immigration policy may perpetuate discriminatory practices influenced by politics and public opinion. Meanwhile, the Immigration Court is severely backlogged, with nearly 2.8 million cases pending and wait times averaging 23-plus years for residency trials and nearly four years for asylum appeals.[2]

  1. RESEARCH QUESTION

What explains the variation in U.S. policy toward migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers from different countries? This research explores the reasons behind different U.S. policies and programs, analyzing case studies from Afghanistan, Ukraine, and Haiti. It uncovers the roots of inconsistent practices by reviewing government laws and policies, considering public and political sentiment, and examining academic literature, focusing on how these groups are treated during mass migration events.

  1. FINDINGS

First, this thesis found inconsistencies in how the U.S. government handles groups fleeing crises in their countries. Key disparities were observed in the speed of granting temporary protected status (TPS), use of secure holding areas, priority treatment for those who worked for the U.S. government, and uneven support for new arrivals. Variations between case studies include the following:

  1. Afghanistan
    • In 2021, Operation Allies Welcome offered temporary protection and a path to citizenship only for Afghans associated with the U.S. government.[3]
    • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) developed a software tracking and security vetting tool called Hummingbird to facilitate the evacuation of Afghan nationals.[4]
    • In 2021, the United States established specific “safe-haven” processing sites at select military bases within the United States for Afghan evacuees.[5] However, a 2022 report found that about 20,300 left the facilities without completing the process.[6] No similar facilities were made for Ukrainians or Haitians.
    • On May 20, 2022, DHS granted TPS to Afghan parolees in the United States, preventing their deportation for 18 months without offering permanent residency.[7] By October 1, 2022, DHS had stopped admitting new Afghan humanitarian parolees and started looking for a long-term residency solution for Afghans in the United States.[8]
  1. Ukraine
    • The United for Ukraine program expedited Ukrainian refugee support by streamlining visa processes and allowing private sponsorship, a level of aid not extended to Haitians or Afghans.[9]
    • DHS issued a TPS designation for Ukrainian refugees on April 19, 2022, less than two months after the Russian invasion on February 24; in contrast, TPS had been designated for Afghan civilians on May 20, 2022, almost nine months after the United States’ two-decade-long involvement in Afghanistan ended on August 30, 2021.[10]
  1. Haiti
    • The country of Haiti was granted TPS on January 21, 2010, following a severe earthquake; it was initially set to expire on July 22, 2011.[11] However, despite contentious political challenges, ongoing legal actions have extended Haiti’s TPS until August 3, 2024.[12]
  1. CONCLUSION

The treatment of Afghan, Ukrainian, and Haitian refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers differs based on each group’s unique political, social, and historical situation. Afghans have struggled with more stringent vetting and logistical challenges following U.S. withdrawal, particularly for those not previously affiliated with the U.S. government, and have faced more obstacles due to the absence of a U.S. embassy in Afghanistan. Afghan arrivals face prevailing concerns related to crime and security. Ukrainian arrivals in the United States receive significant support, streamlining their entry due to Ukraine’s conflict with a U.S. adversary, Russia, and related strategic alliances. The United for Ukraine initiative aids their integration. Conversely, Haitians face a more arduous path, influenced by a complex history of U.S. interventions and limited media attention, leading to less consistent social and political support for their immigration.

  1. RECOMMENDATIONS

Given the varied responses to migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, an overburdened immigration system, and limited parole pathways, this thesis offers three policy recommendations. First, to address the Immigration Court’s backlog of nearly 2.8 million cases, control of the court could be transferred from the Executive Office for Immigration Review to the U.S. judicial system to increase autonomy and stability. The second recommendation is to standardize the tracking and vetting process for incoming migrants to maintain robust security measures while ensuring efficient and fair treatment. Last, enhancements to residency and asylum application processes and pathways to legal permanent residency for immigrant parolees are suggested to reduce case backlogs, support economic growth, and lift the operational pressure on Customs and Border Protection.


[1] Introduced by the Department of State in 2023, the Welcome Corps program involves private citizens in the resettlement of refugees, including displaced Afghan nationals. Welcome Corps is separate from Operation Allies Welcome and represents a transition to a public sponsorship option. See “Launch of Welcome Corps—Private Sponsorship of Refugees,” Department of State, January 19, 2023, https://www.‌state.gov/‌launch-of-the-welcome-corps-private.

[2] Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, “Immigration Court Backlog: Historical Backlog (from 1998),” TRAC Immigration, October 2023, https://trac.syr.edu/phptools/immigration/backlog/.

[3] “Operation Allies Welcome,” Department of Homeland Security, accessed June 30, 2022, https://www.dhs.gov/allieswelcome.

[4] Agency Information Collection Activities: DHS Hummingbird on ServiceNow Platform, 87 Fed. Reg. 39541 (July 1, 2022), https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2022-07-01/pdf/2022-14158.pdf.

[5] Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, The Unified Coordination Group Struggled to Track Afghan Evacuees Independently Departing U.S. Military Bases, OIG-22-79 (Washington, DC: Department of Homeland Security, 2022), 3, https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/‌default/‌files/assets/2022-10/OIG-22-79-Oct22.pdf.

[6] Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, 7.

[7] Designation of Afghanistan for Temporary Protected Status, 87 Fed. Reg. 30976 (May 20, 2022), https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2022/‌05/‌20/2022-10923/designation-of-afghanistan-for-temporary-protected-status.

[8] Department of Homeland Security, “Operation Allies Welcome.”

[9] Ilya Somin, “A Double Standard between Ukrainian and Afghan Refugees?,” Reason, May 26, 2022, https://reason.com/volokh/2022/05/26/a-double-standard-between-ukrainian-and-afghan-refugees/.

[10] Designation of Ukraine for Temporary Protected Status, 87 Fed. Reg. 23211 (April 19, 2022), https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/‌2022/‌04/‌19/2022-08390/designation-of-ukraine-for-temporary-protected-status.

[11] Designation of Haiti for Temporary Protected Status, 75 Fed. Reg. 3476 (January 21, 2010), https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2010/01/21/2010-1169/designation-of-haiti-for-temporary-protected-status.

[12] Extension and Redesignation of Haiti for Temporary Protected Status, 88 Fed. Reg. 5022 (January 26, 2023), https://www.federalregister.gov/‌documents/2023/01/26/2023-01586/extension-and-redesignation-of-haiti-for-temporary-protected-status.

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