The Afghan Refugee Crisis Has Only Just Begun

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Towards the end of 2020, Mother Jones’s editorial director Ian Gordon wrote a deeply reported story about how then-President Donald Trump took a broken asylum system and turned it into a machine of unchecked cruelty. America’s system for processing refugees and asylum seekers was effectively dead, he discovered, and the myth of national decency died with it.

That the United States had long-standing commitments to asylum seekers under federal law and international agreements was of little consequence to Trump and his coterie of immigration hardliners. Even less compelling to them was the role asylum plays in the aspirational story of America that we have been telling the world for decades: that, in a country of immigrants, ensuring the safety of those fleeing repression and violence is our duty, and by welcoming them—by doing the right thing—the United States both fulfills its promise and distinguishes itself from all other nations.

Since Mother Jones published that story in the November/December issue of our magazine, there’s been an election and the problem is now Joe Biden’s to fix. But the clean-up job just got so much harder.

The government in Afghanistan has fallen after 20-plus years of US-led war, and its collapse and subsequent chaos has only underscored the United States’ deep moral obligation to allow refugees to settle here. But when, or if, they are finally allowed to begin this journey, they will encounter a system that has been politicized to the point of collapse.

Ian’s story is especially relevant now, as the US meets one moral failing with another. So we’re presenting it in full as part of our Summer investigation series, co-produced by our partners at Audm. Make sure you stay to the end for a recent update to Ian’s reporting.

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