Biden's Two-Step for Afghanistan Amnesty | Opinion

President Joe Biden's disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan encouraged a stampede approach to filling evacuation planes, instead of prioritizing Americans and green-card holders. In the ensuing chaos, 13 U.S. servicemembers died from a suicide bombing at the airport and countless Americans were stranded in Kabul after the last plane departed on August 31. Meanwhile tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of unvetted Afghans are being allowed into the United States. The Biden administration policy seems to be to get as many here as quickly as possible and sort out the details later. What could possibly go wrong?

The impetus for allowing these visa-less Afghans to enter the country is the notion that some of them may be eligible for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV), an immigration carrot for those who meaningfully assisted the U.S. effort during the forever war. One small SIV program is for interpreters and translators, roles that are clear cut and beneficial. Recent media coverage of the evacuation scramble might give the impression that hundreds of thousands of Afghans served in this capacity. In reality, over the last 15 years, approximately 2,000 Afghans have been admitted to the U.S. under this program but only 600 of them actually worked as interpreters or translators. The rest are family members who likely played no role in assisting the U.S. military. While it makes sense to allow threatened family members to tag along, it is important to distinguish the relatively few Afghans who actually served in critically important roles.

The larger SIV program is for Afghans who were employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government. This one is for certain Afghans working directly with the U.S. government, or for contractors providing services on behalf of the U.S. government for at least one year (the requirement used to be two years), and who could face repercussions because of this employment. These are not exactly "in the trenches" types of jobs, but the Biden administration obscures that fact. Over the last 15 years, nearly 74,000 Afghans have been admitted into the U.S. under this program, with a large majority consisting of "derivatives" (such as immediate family members) who likely had no involvement whatsoever.

The Biden administration knows that not every Afghan citizen it allowed into the United States will qualify for SIV. Already a convicted rapist was found on an evacuation flight that landed at Washington Dulles International Airport, about an hour from the White House. More bad actors will likely be discovered in the coming days and weeks once the U.S. actually starts vetting the Afghans who are now on American soil. Others will be simply ineligible for either SIV program based on the criteria established by Congress.

Afghan refugees
Refugees disembark from a US air force aircraft after an evacuation flight from Kabul at the Rota naval base in Rota, southern Spain, on August 31, 2021. - Spain has agreed to host up to 4,000 Afghans who will be airlifted by the United States to airbases in Rota and Moron de la Frontera in southern Spain. CRISTINA QUICLER/AFP/Getty Images

You can guess what happens next: those who are denied SIV will be allowed to stay anyway. None will be deported and, since we cannot detain them forever, all will be cut loose eventually. This parole allows the alien to obtain a work permit despite lacking a visa. But it is temporary, and can easily be undone by a future administration.

And that's where the inevitable Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation comes in. Under the law, the DHS secretary may designate a country for TPS on the basis of ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster or extraordinary and temporary conditions. Despite the name, there is nothing as permanent as a "temporary" immigration status. Once the DHS secretary designates a country for TPS, nearly every illegal alien in the United States from that country can be granted a reprieve from deportation, a work permit, a Social Security number and eligibility for a driver's license.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas has already shown a willingness to use TPS to reward illegal aliens. DHS has so far used this tool to provide this "amnesty-lite" to nearly 500,000 illegal aliens from six countries with little semblance of a justification that accords with the law. Some advocates of unlimited immigration, well aware of Mayorkas's proclivity for TPS, are expressing frustration that Afghanistan has yet to be designated.

The delay is intentional. If the Biden administration truly believed Afghanistan satisfied the requirement for TPS, Secretary Mayorkas would have announced that decision shortly after the withdrawal debacle a few weeks ago. The only reason it did not happen is because not enough Afghans were in the country at the time to benefit. Now that the last government flight has departed Kabul, a sufficiently sizable visa-less Afghan population will soon be on U.S. soil to warrant a grant of TPS.

The Biden administration will continue its charade of SIV vetting for a few weeks to deflect attention. But it is not a question of "if," but "when" Afghanistan will receive the TPS designation. When it does, the mass evacuation of Afghans at the expense of stranded Americans will have only resulted in further erosion of our immigration laws.

Robert Law is the Director of Regulatory Affairs and Policy for the Center for Immigration Studies and a former chief of policy, USCIS.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.