(Headline USA) As tens of thousands of Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban arrive in the U.S., former Trump administration officials are warning about the long-term risks of backing President Joe Biden’s solution to his self-inflicted catastrophe.
The former officials are writing position papers, appearing on conservative television outlets and meeting privately with GOP lawmakers—all in an effort to prevent radical leftists from turning the collapse of Afghanistan into another opportunity to push their open-borders agenda.
“It is a collaboration based on mutual conviction,” said Stephen Miller, the architect of President Donald Trump’s most conservative immigration policies and among those engaged on the issue. “My emphasis has been in talking to members of Congress to build support for opposing the Biden administration’s overall refugee plans.”
Republicans pushing the issue hope to keep GOP voters motivated heading into next year’s midterms, when control of Congress is at stake. Two of the biggest vulnerabilities currently plaguing the Left are Biden’s failures at the southern border and his disastrous retreat following America’s 20-year investment in Afghanistan.
“From a political standpoint, cultural issues are the most important issues that are on the mind of the American people,” said Russ Vought, Trump’s former budget chief and president of the Center for Renewing America.
The nonprofit group that has been working on building opposition to Afghan refugee settlement in the U.S. along with other hot-button issues, like Critical Race Theory, which seeks to rewrite American history through the lenses of racism and Marxist models of a constant clash between the privileged and the oppressed.
Vought’s group is working, he said, to “kind of punch through this unanimity that has existed” that the withdrawal was chaotic, but that Afghan refugees deserve to come to the U.S.
Democrats insist that every Afghan headed for the country is subject to extensive vetting that includes thorough biometric and biographic screenings conducted by intelligence, law enforcement and counterterrorism personnel.
At a pair of hearings this week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed those “rigorous security checks” begin in transit countries before refugees arrive in the U.S. and continue at U.S. military bases before anyone is resettled. Checks then continue as refugees await further processing.
But Trump and his allies remain skeptical, warning that the disorganized vetting process mirrors the chaotic withdrawal, laying the scaffold for another massive terrorist attack by sleeper cells within the US.
Many of those who carried out the 9/11 attacks 20 years ago had resided in the country legally after receiving visas during the Clinton administration.
“Who are all of the people coming into our Country?” Trump asked in a recent statement. “How many terrorists are among them?”
With the U.S. confronting a host of challenges, it’s unclear whether voters will consider immigration a leading priority next year.
It was a key motivator for voters in the 2018 midterm elections, with 4 in 10 Republicans identifying it as the top issue facing the country, according to AP VoteCast data.
But it became far less salient two years later, when only 3% of 2020 voters—including 5% of Republicans—named it as the No. 1 issue facing the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic woes.
By exacerbating the latter issues, Biden has effectively neutralized the political threat of immigration outrage while continuing to allow hundreds of thousands of illegals through the porous border with Mexico.
Republicans remain unified in their opposition to those policies, but have been conflicted about America’s responsibility for taking in the victims of Biden’s callous Afghanistan exit.
Some of those born after the US liberation of the country are now adults, having never known life under occupation by the hardline Islamic fundamentalist regime that Biden now considers to be a strategic partner.
When it comes to refugees, 68% of Americans say they support the U.S. taking in those fleeing Afghanistan after security screening, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll in late August and early September. That includes a majority—56%—of Republicans.
Dozens of Republican lawmakers and their offices have been working tirelessly to try to help Afghans flee the country. And some, like Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., have admonished those in his party who have suggested the Afghans pose a security risk.
Much of the skepticism voiced by the Right has been driven by the Biden administration’s refusal, thus far, to provide an accounting of exactly who was able to leave Afghanistan during the U.S.’s chaotic evacuation campaign from Kabul’s airport.
Hundreds of American citizens reportedly remain stranded in the country, while reports have indicated that not all of those who made it out on US cargo transports are, in fact, eligible for Special Immigrant Visas.
The administration has so far requested funding from Congress to help resettle 65,000 Afghans in the United States by the end of this month and 95,000 by September 2022.
On Wednesday, officials began notifying governors and state refugee coordinators across the country about how many from the first wave of evacuees are slated to be resettled in their states.
But officials have said they are still working to compile the breakdown of how many qualify for SIV status, designed to help interpreters and others who worked in some capacity for the U.S. or NATO.
They likewise remain murky on how many hold other visas or have applied for them; how many are considered other “Afghans at risk,” like journalists and human rights workers; and how many fall into other categories, including those who may simply have been able to enter the airport and board flights.
The organization War Time Allies estimates as many as 20,000 special visa applicants remain in the country, not counting their families.
Ken Cuccinelli, who served as Trump’s acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and is now a senior fellow at the Center for Renewing America, says he doesn’t believe it’s feasible that the refugees have faced sufficient review, given the time frame, number of people fleeing, and other challenges.
“It’s unachievable as a simple administrative matter,” he said of the process.
While Cuccinelli, like Miller, believes that SIVs should be allowed to come to the U.S., he argues that the other refugees should be resettled in the region, closer to their home country.
The “mass importation of potentially hundreds of thousands of people who do not share American cultural, political, or ideological commonalities poses serious risks to both national security and broader social cohesion,” he wrote in a recent position paper on the group’s website.
The paper cites Pew Research Center polling on beliefs about Sharia law and suicide bombings.
But other former Trump officials take issue with the US resettlement opponents, accusing them of using inflammatory language.
“Some of the people who’ve always been immigration hard-liners are seeing this wrongly as an opportunity ahead of the midterms to, lack a better term, stoke fear of, ‘I don’t want these people in my country,’” said Alyssa Farah, a former Pentagon press secretary who also served as White House communications director under Trump.
Farah said she has been working to “politely shift Republican sentiment” away from arguments that she sees as both factually false and politically questionable.
The Republican Party, she noted, includes a majority of veterans—many of whom worked closely alongside Afghans on the ground and have led the push to help their former colleagues escape—as well as evangelical Christians, who have historically welcomed refugees more broadly with open arms.
“It’s totally misreading public sentiment to think that Republicans should not be for relocating Afghan refugees” and those “who served along side the U.S.,” she said. “The Christian community is there. The veterans community is for it.”
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press