Congressional Republicans see what's happening in Afghanistan through one prism: an opportunity to attack Biden-- which they're doing mercilessly. But, as Marianna Sotomayor pointed out yesterday in the Washington Post, the Republicans are split on how to message refugees from the conflict. "Divisions over how to handle an impending Afghan refugee crisis," she wrote, "are beginning to emerge among Republicans, potentially leading to clash at a time when GOP leaders are trying to keep the party united around its criticism of President Biden’s handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Several congressional Republicans who have long warned against a hasty retreat out of Afghanistan have been quick to say that the United States should welcome refugees fleeing the country to prevent a humanitarian crisis, especially Afghans who assisted the United States during the long war and women-- two groups most likely to face violent retribution under the Taliban regime that has seized control." How many Afs should we take in? A few million? I'm sure half the country would like to resettle in America if they could.
McConnell says the U.S. should welcome them. "We owe it to these people, who are our friends and who worked with us, to get them out safely if we can." Utah Governor Spencer Cox agrees and would be happy to take refugees in-- not a bad idea, since geographically Utah is more like Afghanistan than most states are. Meanwhile, it's only a matter of time before Republican Party attacks against Biden will shift from "he isn’t getting enough of our wonderful Afghan allies out" to "Biden is letting too many dirty Afghan terrorists and rapists into our country." Sean Hannity is just a little ahead of the curve there. Soon McCarthy will be parroting it.
But the nativist wing of the party that backed former president Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda are warning that the Afghan refugees could pose a security threat, and they are stoking fears about where they would settle in the United States. Some on the right have characterized the arrival of Afghans as part of their broader “replacement theory” warning-- the idea that immigrants and particularly undocumented ones are “replacing” natural-born Americans.
Fox News’s Tucker Carlson spent Monday night criticizing Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney’s call for the Biden administration to immediately expedite the asylum process, saying: “If history is any guide, and it’s always a guide, we will see many refugees from Afghanistan resettle in our country, and over the next decade, that number may swell to the millions. So first we invade, and then we are invaded.”
Rep. Marjorie Traitor Greene (Q-GA) rebuked Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s suggestion that he may allow the state to accept refugees, warning that he should not do so if Americans still remain in Afghanistan because “the future of GA shouldn’t be like MN that voted” for liberal Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), a refugee from Somalia who is often attacked by Republicans.
The warnings are also being pushed by former top Trump adviser Stephen Miller, who advocated a restrictive immigration policy that his detractors called racist.
“Resettling in America is not about solving a humanitarian crisis, it’s about accomplishing an ideological objective-- to change America,” he said on Fox News on Tuesday night.
I wonder if these "nativists" have any idea that the Afs are the most conservative people on earth and that most of them who come here would be hard core Republicans... at least until Republicans start treating them as racial inferiors. The issue may continued heating up and spilling over into GOP primaries, which they deserve. They'll all be eager to join the NRA too. Outside of Kabul it was inconceivable that you would ever see a male without a heavy duty gun.
Trump has not articulated a clear message about refugees yet, but on Wednesday he released a statement criticizing a plane packed with hundreds of Afghans being flown out of the country before all Americans have been brought home.
“This plane should have been full of Americans, America First!” he said.
The potential clash over Afghan refugees could exacerbate tensions over whether Republicans should follow the party’s more traditional hawkish foreign policy approach or continue on the nationalist path laid out by Trump and supported by many GOP voters who remain loyal to the former president. It also could serve to highlight to what degree a nativist, anti-immigrant approach is now the prevailing view in the party even with Trump out of office.
...Congress recently allocated $1.5 billion to help the resettlement of Afghans as part of a larger spending bill passed in late July. Republican aides pointed to the wide support for that bill within the House conference as evidence that most members will support helping people fleeing the Taliban, noting all but 16 members voted for the bill. The legislation also doubled the amount of special immigration visas issued to Afghans to 19,000 and removed application requirements for those qualified to receive them.
“While I support strong, secure vetting through our refugee programs, it is also critical that America keep its promises to those who have sacrificed so much to help us,” Rep. John Katko (NY), ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement.
Sunil Varghese, who serves as policy director at the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), said that years of Republican anti-immigrant attacks have made it increasingly difficult to enact reforms that would have prevented the backlog occurring now in processing Afghan refugees.
“There was so many attacks on who is a refugee and what refugees were allowed to enter the country that really restricted and made it virtually impossible for refugees to come to the U.S.,” Varghese said.
After the Trump administration was defeated in court for trying to implement a ban on people from predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States, it implemented an “extreme vetting” strategy that created a multilayered vetting process for refugees. Government documents obtainedduring lawsuits filed by IRAP against the administration showed that it aimed to defund a key section of the Department of Homeland Security US Citizenship and Immigration Services that was responsible for interviewing refugees outside of the United States before clearing them for entry. The changes created a backlog that deterred or made it increasingly difficult for refugees to leave the Middle East, the report found.
In the past, Republicans have viewed refugees fleeing certain countries as a separate issue from undocumented immigrants entering the country or requesting asylum, but that changed under Trump. He signed an executive order in 2019 giving states and local governments the ability to reject refugees in a move that was largely seen as throwing red meat to his base ahead of an election year. Nineteen states and dozens of local governments led by Republican governors and mayors chose to continue welcoming refugees.
Biden has since signed an executive order reversing Trump’s policy, but Varghese said that while Democrats have said the right things about restoring funding to USCIS and other agencies that would help expedite refugee and asylum cases, the Biden administration has yet to do so or say whether it would given the crisis emerging in Afghanistan.
Moreover, pro-refugee resettlement groups have pushed Biden to act unilaterally and allow Afghans to be processed in the United States rather than a third country; many Republicans agree with the Biden administration’s current position to process screenings in another country first.
“We need to protect these American lives and every individual that fought with us and every promise we made to them. We need to get them out of the country into a third country to be able to screen them before we bring them in,” McCarthy said. “The president should be working on this day and night, not hiding, not vacationing but getting the job done because we will do it. We will work together to make this happen.”