Here`s a long-overdue New Year`s resolution for America: bring back the draft to fight the war and keep the peace in Iraq . . . but only for able-bodied Iraqis already in the United States, especially those here based on asylum claims.
While the United States expends increasing amounts of blood and treasure to make Iraq safe for democracy (among other things), the federal immigration bureaucracy is also keeping a back-door open for able-bodied Iraqis to flee their native country and remain in the United States to pursue applications for asylum and adjustments of status in potentially unlimited numbers.
Here`s the problem: whether under an outright grant of refugee status, or simply under the pretense of filing for asylum, the federal government permits able-bodied Iraqi-born citizens to hide out in the United States while American soldiers are fighting and dying in their stead.
Has anyone in government thought this through yet?
One would assume that as part of "Operation Iraqi Freedom," the U.S. military would want to help find and train new recruits for the Iraqi National Guard or Iraqi police forces to help keep peace in the newly-liberated land.
So why not start with the fresh Iraqi recruits right in our own backyard?
Able-bodied Iraqi refugees and asylum applicants just so happen to have been born in Iraq. They would supposedly have an interest in the success of the new Iraqi government (much more so than the average American, at least). And they even speak the language!
So how about it, Mr. President? How about helping the morale of the American troops in Iraq by sending all able-bodied Iraqis—starting with current asylum-seekers and those previously granted asylum—out on the next plane to Baghdad to defend their homeland?
Amazingly, no one in the media has yet to report on the lesser-known counterpart to "Operation Iraqi Freedom"—that is, the ongoing "Operation Iraqi Asylum" in the United States.
So who in the federal government is granting asylum to Iraqi nationals in this time of unprecedented war waged for their liberation?
Answer: the usual unseen federal immigration bureaucracy suspects.
"Operation Iraqi Asylum"—my joking name for an unfunny reality—is administered daily by the Department of Homeland Security`s Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) division as well as the Immigration Court system of the Department of Justice`s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). Iraqi refugees also are admitted outright by the U.S. Department of State and ushered into the United States by a federal social services agency par excellence—the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) of the Department of Health and Human Services.
The mother lode of the current "Operation Iraqi Asylum" is within the Department of State. In a report to Congress, the State Department estimates that 2,000 Iraqis will be referred for its resettlement program in fiscal year 2006.
In order to meet the definition of a refugee (also necessary for asylum), an alien must prove past persecution (or a well-founded fear of future persecution) under one of five statutorily protected grounds: race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
An alien granted refugee status in the United States—either outright or in conjunction with an application for asylum—can apply for a resident alien card (a "green card" for lawful permanent resident status) within a year after entry.
Unfortunately, international alien smuggling enables virtually anyone in the world without legal documents to bypass the system of U.S. consular refugee processing abroad if they feel like it.
Cheaters can "beat the system" by just showing up without documents at any U.S. land border or airport on American soil to request asylum through the "credible fear" process of Immigration Section 235(b). They`re promptly rewarded by being released from custody, allowed to travel on to another city, where they perhaps later may appear for an EOIR Immigration Court hearing to be awarded asylum.
The potential for abuse of the current system is so great, that the DHS "credible fear" review and EOIR asylum process has the potential to become the greatest back-door entry/amnesty program of all. The smoking gun of asylum opportunism is all there in black-and-white in Immigration Act Sections 208, 209 and 235.
It`s not at all surprising that Iraqis have been applying for asylum in the United States in a steady stream over the years.
The real story here: they have not stopped coming and applying since the downfall of Saddam Hussein and his evil Baath Party.
The clues of the uninterrupted flow of Iraqi asylum claims hide within data published in annual statistical yearbooks by the EOIR`s Office of Planning and Analysis.
The EOIR Immigration Court received 775 new applications for asylum from Iraqis placed in removal proceedings during fiscal years 2003 and 2004, from October 2002 until September 2004. The EOIR granted 312 applications outright during that time period.
Remember that "Operation Iraqi Freedom" officially started with the bombardment of Baghdad on March 19, 2003.
But that`s only the beginning.
As I have explained previously, the EOIR`s statistics are presented in such a convoluted manner that counting "completed cases" doesn`t give an accurate picture of how many applications for relief (including applications for asylum) are actually approved by the federal immigration bureaucracy.
For example, the EOIR`s appellate body, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), can simply decide to remand (that is, send back) cases to the EOIR immigration judges as a matter of course to give aliens yet another chance at an asylum hearing all over again.
The bottom line: EOIR statistics do not show how many Iraqis have actually been granted asylum in the United States. Data as to how many asylum applications have been granted by the DHS` CIS division is not published for the public either.
But no matter how many able-bodied Iraqis are ushered in as refugees, or are simply being given shelter in the United States while their applications for political asylum float through the never-ending EOIR litigation process, one able-bodied Iraqi lounging in the United States during wartime is too many.
You would think that Iraqi claims for asylum in the United States after the fall of Saddam Hussein are inherently suspect, given the presence of the American military on the ground in Iraq, actively seeking to keep the peace . . . or at least assure that no one is persecuted by the government.
Even the United Nations, through its Office of High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), grudgingly acknowledges that tens of thousands of Iraqis have actually returned home since the advent of Operation Iraqi Freedom. According to the UNHCR:
"It is estimated that between 2003 and 2005, more than 253,000 people returned to Iraq, most of them spontaneously. A total of 23,074 Iraqis chose to return voluntarily from Iran, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan and other countries with assistance from UNHCR. However, because of the security situation, the agency has never promoted returns to any part of Iraq. [Global Policy Forum, "UNHCR Issues New Guidelines on Iraqi Asylum Seekers," September 27, 2005.]
So given the billions, if not trillions, of American taxpayer dollars expended ostensibly to make Iraq a livable place for Iraqis, should these same Iraqi nationals also be allowed to simultaneously seek asylum in the United States . . . even during this extraordinary military and financial effort?
And if the United States ever were to abandon the field of battle in Iraq, one must shudder to think how many countless more "refugees" (bona fide and otherwise) would try their hand at showing up at a port of entry on American soil and filing for asylum.
The American Mainstream Media has been predictably out to lunch on the asylum questions raised by the war in Iraq.
But given the effort they`ve expended investigating the improper use of panties and dog collars in the prosecution of the war, doesn`t the story of the incongruous "Operation Iraqi Asylum" deserve some reportage?