AMAC Exclusive – By Ben Solis
In recent weeks, President Joe Biden has attempted to defend his administration’s handling of the border by claiming that illegal border crossers are “fleeing communism” – just the latest messaging ploy from the administration as the United States faces its worst immigration crisis in recent memory.
While it is true that some migrants do come from communist countries (although not nearly as many as Biden suggests) the administration’s misleading rhetoric ignores two basic realities: First, victims of communist oppression or not, the United States is not equipped to safely vet and admit millions of refugees. Second, it is Biden’s own leniency toward communist regimes in the Western Hemisphere that has emboldened those governments to crack down even harder on their populations, spurring even more individuals and families to risk the dangerous journey north.
Biden first invoked the communism excuse last month following a Customs and Border Patrol announcement that more than 158,000 immigrants were apprehended in August, bringing the 11-month tally so far for FY 2022 to more than 2 million. “There are fewer immigrants coming from Central America and from Mexico. This is a totally different circumstance,” Biden said, dodging the original question about why the border is so overwhelmed under his watch. “What’s on my watch now is Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua,” Biden said.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre doubled down on Biden’s statements later on in the day, saying “these people are fleeing communism…Failing authoritarian regimes in Venezuela as well as Nicaragua and Cuba are causing a new migration challenge across the Western Hemisphere. So, what we’re seeing is a new pattern.”
Migrants entering the United States from these communist countries have indeed been more numerous in 2022, according to CBP data. But people fleeing communist regimes still only account for about 35 percent of the total number of migrants who have entered the country illegally this year – hardly justifying the sweeping generalization invoked by the Biden administration.
Moreover, to the extent that immigration from communist countries has increased, Biden has had a direct hand in creating the conditions that have incentivized it. In April, before Biden liberalized relations with Havana, Cuban opposition leaders warned the White House that not only would opening up U.S.-Cuban relations motivate more people to flee northward, the Cuban regime would also tighten their brutal control over the country.
Sure enough, the regime pursued a renewed crackdown on dissent as soon as Biden softened sanctions and returned to Obama’s lenient policies toward Cuba, including providing more visas for members of the government bureaucracy.
Jose Daniel Ferrer in particular, the leader of the largest opposition group on the country, UNPACU, alerted Democrats in Washington that such liberalization would embolden the regime akin to when the E.U. implemented similar concessions. Soon after Biden’s policy changes, the regime imprisoned Ferrer and subjected him to various torture methods, including sleep deprivation, exposure to loud music, and denial of ventilation and light. Ferrer has been deprived of all rights, including the right to participate in religious services. Ferrer’s wife was denied contact with her husband for nearly two months, and only then was allowed 15 minutes of visitation.
Since May, the Cuban secret police have also conducted nightly raids of opposition members. The prominent Ladies in White movement, a group of wives, daughters, and relatives of jailed dissidents, has experienced a wave of terror. Recently, at least 12 members of the group were arrested outside a church entrance following religious services.
The Biden administration has exhibited no ability or inclination to show even small gestures in defense of the Cuban opposition, like tweeting names of the prisoners of conscience while demanding their release – a policy that the Trump administration, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, pursued regularly. Cuban opposition leaders have said these gestures boost their morale and debilitate the regime. Asked what impact criticism by U.S. officials of human rights violations in Cuba had on Cuban dissidents, Jose Daniel Ferrer said that the opposition always benefits from pressure against the regime, including on social media.
With their liberalization of relations toward Cuba, the Biden administration has in effect convinced the regime that it does not have to stop these persecutions in order to achieve its goals. As a result, the regime’s oppression has only increased, driving even more Cubans to risk everything to escape it. A new report by the Cuban Human Rights Observatory documents more than 1,100 violations of political prisoners’ rights since August alone.
Biden’s energy policies have also emboldened the communist regime in Venezuela, indirectly spurring migration from that country as well. In March, following soaring gas prices as a result of his own anti-American energy policies and the war in Ukraine, Biden was forced to float a rapprochement with the Maduro regime, begging them for oil and ceding all leverage that the U.S. had there. Maduro has thus been able to extend his brutal reign with little opposition, again spurring people to flee.
The illegal immigration crisis has thus only further underscored Biden’s failures in other parts of his foreign policy. While it is highly misleading for the President to claim that the border crisis is because of people “fleeing communism,” it is nonetheless true that by failing to use sanctions and other economic tools that can force communist regimes to respect human rights, Biden has directly exacerbated the conditions that lead to mass migration movements. While Biden continues to blame anyone but himself for the border crisis, he is nonetheless the most at fault for it.
Ben Solis is the pen name of an international affairs journalist, historian, and researcher.
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