Posted on August 18, 2021

The Coming U.S. Political Fight over Accepting Refugees from Afghanistan

Sahil Kapur, NBC News, August 18, 2021

A humanitarian crisis in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is sparking a political debate over what to do about refugees from the war-torn country.

There is some bipartisan agreement to assist Afghans who stood with Americans. But it is unclear how many — and what categories of Afghans — will be able to come to the U.S. or whether the process will be expedited for those in danger.

And while some Republicans have expressed openness to helping resettle U.S. allies in the region, there is sharp and early conservative resistance to Democratic efforts to expand refugee visas, signaling a battle to come over what has been a politically heated issue.

President Joe Biden wrote a memo Monday granting Secretary of State Antony Blinken an extra $500 million for “unexpected urgent refugee and migration needs of refugees, victims of conflict, and other persons at risk as a result of the situation in Afghanistan, including applicants for Special Immigrant Visas.”


A group of 46 senators — 43 Democrats and three Republicans — is calling for a “humanitarian parole category” to allow Afghan women leaders, human rights activists and other public figures to quickly and efficiently relocate to the U.S.


The question of Afghan refugees ties into a larger immigration debate that has riled conservative voters disenchanted with demographic change. Former President Donald Trump sharply cut refugee admissions, and Biden has faced criticism from human rights activists for being slow to rebuild the program.

Stephen Miller, the conservative hard-liner who transformed U.S. immigration policy as an adviser in the Trump White House, said Republicans should reject efforts to expand Special Immigrant Visas, or SIVs, that would allow Afghan refugees into the U.S.


And opposition to taking in Afghans appeared to be brewing among prominent conservative media figures, including Laura Ingraham of Fox News, who sounded the alarm on her show Monday night about “thousands of potentially unvetted refugees” from Afghanistan. {snip}

In a poll taken Friday to Monday, the left-leaning firm Data For Progress asked 1,193 likely voters whether Biden should speed the process of giving immigrant visas to U.S. allies in Afghanistan or whether he should take no additional action to bring them here. Fifty-five percent said Biden should speed the process, while 30 percent said he should take no extra action; 15 percent said they do not know.