Some Republicans are betting that spreading fear that the United States will accept thousands of Afghan refugees will help them in the medium term, a risk that could backfire, as polls show majority support allowing those who fled to enter. the country.
Republicans have broadly united behind attacks on Biden’s handling of immigration issues and those seeking entry into the United States.
But on Afghan refugees, the GOP is divided, with some worrying about the security risk of accepting refugees and others saying the United States must accept them.
Montana Representative Matt Rosendale (right) complained that his state could accommodate 75 refugees and that “the mass evacuation of more than 100,000 Afghan nationals in a matter of weeks made proper control of these people nearly impossible “.
“It’s a dangerous part of the world. We know we have a lot of dangerous people out there who want to hurt the United States,” said the governor of South Dakota. Kristi noemKristi Lynn Noem Dozens of Republican governors call for meeting with Biden on surge in borders Juan Williams: Shame on anti-mandate Republicans White House debates vaccines for air travel MORE, one of two GOP governors who say they won’t accept refugees, said last month. “And they shouldn’t come to the United States unless we know for sure that they are an ally and a friend and they do not wish to destroy this country.”
Some of the strongest rhetoric has come from former collaborators of former President TrumpDonald Trump Graham says he hopes Trump will run again Trump says Stacey Abrams “could be better than current governor” Fight for Kemp Executive privilege poses obstacles for Trump MORE, who in his own statement last month said: “We can only imagine how many thousands of terrorists have been airlifted out of Afghanistan and into neighborhoods around the world.
“If you bring people from Afghanistan to several provinces, you will reproduce the conditions of Afghanistan here in the United States of America and all the horrors that entail,” said the former Trump adviser. Stephen millerStephen Miller Julian Castro overthrows Biden administration on refugee policy Why is the Biden administration turning its back on asylum seekers? Defense and national security: the fight for the evacuation after the airlift READ MORE told Fox News Tucker carlsonTucker CarlsonCritics explode Tucker Carlson’s remarks on immigration amid surging borders Stefanik in ad says Democrats want “permanent election insurgency” Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on the right MORE this month.
Others offered a more nuanced message that puts more emphasis on accepting Afghan refugees, saying they should be welcome if properly vetted.
“We have a moral responsibility to welcome the Afghan evacuees who supported us and who had to flee their country because of the irresponsible actions of the Biden administration. I agree with that, ”said the senator. Rob portmanRobert (Rob) Jones Portman Major US Port Targeted in Attempted Cyber Attack Hillicon Valley – Brought to you by Xerox – Officials Want Action Against Cyber Attacks Officials urge Congress to consider fining companies that fail to report cyber incidents PLUS (R-Ohio) said last week.
“We also have, however, a moral responsibility to do everything in our power to ensure the safety and security of American citizens in American communities by carrying out appropriate screening so that we do not release terrorists or criminals. in our ranks, “he said.
Some GOP strategists say those who raise concerns are only playing with the party base.
“So much politics now is grassroots performance politics,” said Doug Heye, GOP strategist and former director of communications for the Republican National Committee. “This is aimed at a base that is fiercely anti-illegal immigration and not terribly for legal immigration either.”
Heye said it was not clear how the issue would play out in the primaries, but that it can be significant when immigration is very important to GOP voters in a specific state or district.
Refugee advocates denounce criticism tinged with xenophobia.
“It has been interesting to see the outpouring of support from the American public contrast with some of the political rhetoric from politicians,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, which helps resettle Afghan refugees.
“We heard elected officials blow the whistle of Islamophobic and anti-immigrant dog to sow doubt on courageous individuals who defended American ideals. … These families and individuals are not security threats. They suffered retaliation from the Taliban, which is why they deserved and needed our protection. They are not the danger; they were in danger, ”Vignarajah said.
The White House has sought to counter the rhetoric by focusing on the screening process faced by Afghan refugees entering the country.
Afghan allies who have assisted the military enter the United States through the 14-step Special Immigrant Visa process, with some remaining on military bases while the process is completed.
Others who enter as refugees have their names and biometric data such as fingerprints passed through a multitude of databases of different agencies managed by various intelligence services. Biden tasked the Department of Homeland Security to oversee the process.
Most of the screening takes place overseas at military bases housing the evacuees, and in a few cases the United States has even returned refugees to Kosovo for further screening.
Polls show that the public is broadly in favor of accepting Afghan refugees, although opinions tend to support strong partisan lines.
A Pew Research Center survey released Thursday found that a solid majority of American adults – 56% – are in favor of admitting Afghan refugees to the United States. Afghan refugees and 63% of Republicans and Republican-leaning moderates opposed to this practice.
Fifty-four percent of Republicans also say they are not at all convinced the United States is carrying out adequate security checks on Afghan refugees, while 68 percent of Democrats are at least somewhat confident in the screening process. , according to Pew.
Influencing GOP voters are comments from Republican officials expressing concern over the refugees.
But some say the comments risk playing politics with a group in desperate need of help.
“Challenging the security check argument that you can never win with people who will take nothing less than Trump style check, let two people in a year,” said Chris Purdy, who leads veterans for American ideals. program at Human Rights First.
He warned that the rhetoric is even more dangerous given the rise in domestic extremism and hate crimes.
“I’m worried about the extremist groups, these January 6 guys, who are going to hang on to this – and they can’t be controlled by anyone – and hang on to that as a blunt reason to blame,” Purdy said.
Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who advised Biden’s presidential campaign, said Democrats who run against Republican opponents who criticize Biden for admitting refugees can spread the messages with a two-pronged argument: that the States- United must keep their commitment to the Afghans who aided the American forces. for 20 years and that the Afghan allies are the “most controlled people” because they served alongside the Americans for two decades.
“Unfortunately, I don’t hear enough Democrats giving that answer, but it’s very easy to go back,” she said, while noting that the issue is not of urgent concern to voters.
For Democrats, however, the vulnerability may lie less in the specific line of attack against the refugees and more in the risk of a backlash regarding Biden’s handling of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan as a whole.
Polls show voters support the president’s decision to pull out of the 20-year conflict in Afghanistan, but they also indicate voters are less supportive of handling the pullout.
Biden has resisted criticism from Republicans and Democrats for the chaotic nature of the withdrawal, in which thousands of Americans and Afghans were evacuated but many Afghan allies were left behind.
Foreign policy is usually not a priority for voters when they go to the polls. Average voters are more likely to pay more attention to issues such as the economy and the coronavirus, although surveys indicate that Biden’s management’s perceptions of his job have become more negative amid the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“Afghanistan probably won’t be a voting problem in fourteen months, but it has shaken Biden’s main arguments – essentially a jurisdictional issue,” said Heye, the GOP strategist.