As tens of thousands of Afghan refugees flight from the Taliban Arriving in the US, a handful of former US President Donald Trump officials are working to stop the Conservative Republican Party from attacking them.
The former officials write postal items, appear on conservative television outlets and meet privately with IDP legislators – all in an attempt to turn the collapse of Afghanistan into another opportunity to bring about a tough immigration agenda.
“It’s a collaboration based on mutual conviction,” said Stephen Miller, the architect of Trump’s most conservative immigration policy and among those involved.
“I have emphasized the need for dialogue with members of Congress to support the opposition to the Biden administration’s overall refugee plans.”
The approach is not adopted by all Republican leaders, some call it common and contrary to Christian doctrines that are important to white evangelists who play a critical role in the party’s base. The strategy is based on tactics that were common during Trump’s term and that turned many voters off, including racist tropes, intimidating and false allegations.
And the runners pay little heed to the human reality unfolding in Afghanistan, where those who worked with the U.S. military during the war are desperate to flee for fear of being killed by the new Taliban regime.
But Republicans who point to the issue are betting that they can open a new front in the cultural wars they have waged since President Joe Biden’s election, combining the sentiment against immigrants that fueled Trump’s political rise with widespread discontent. on the withdrawal from Afghanistan. They hope it can keep Republican voters motivated until next year’s midterm term, when control of Congress is at stake.
“From a political point of view, cultural issues are the most important issues that the American people have in mind,” said Russ Vought, a former Trump chief budget officer and president of the Center for Renewing America, a nonprofit organization. resistance to the settlement of Afghan refugees in the US — along with other bottlenecks, such as critical racial theory, which view American history through the lens of racism.
He says his group is working to “strike a blow through this unanimity that exists”, that, despite the chaotic withdrawal, Afghan refugees deserve to come to the US.
Grab on ‘cultural issues’
Officials insist that every Afghan on his way to the country is subject to extensive investigations that include thorough biometric and biographical investigations conducted by intelligence, law enforcement and terrorist personnel.
At a few hearings this week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the “strict security controls” in transit countries begin before refugees arrive in the U.S. and continue at U.S. military bases before anyone is relocated. The checks then continue while refugees wait for further processing.
But Trump and his allies, who worked hard to curb refugee surveys while in office, insist the refugees pose a threat.
“Who are the people entering our country?” Asked Trump in a recent statement. “How many terrorists are there among them?”
While the U.S. faces a myriad of challenges, it is unclear whether voters will see immigration as a leading priority next year.
It was a major motivator for voters during the 2018 midterm elections, with four out of ten Republicans identifying it as the country’s most important issue, according to AP VoteCast data.
But it became much less noticeable two years later, when only three percent of voters in 2020 — including five percent of Republicans — it as the number one issue of the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic woes mention.
As for refugees, 68 percent of Americans say they support the U.S. in investigating those fleeing Afghanistan to safety, according to a Washington Post / ABC News poll in late August and early September. That includes a majority – 56 percent – of Republicans.
The party’s leaders are far from united.
Dozens of Republican lawmakers and their offices have worked tirelessly to try to help Afghans flee the country. And some, like Senator Thom Tillis, have warned those in his party who have suggested that the Afghans pose a security risk.
Some of the skepticism expressed by the right is exacerbated by the refusal of the Biden administration to date to report on who could leave Afghanistan during the chaotic US evacuation campaign from the airport in Kabul.
The State Department said more than 23,800 Afghans arrived in the United States between August 17 and 31. Thousands more remain on U.S. military sites overseas for investigation and other processing.
But officials say they are still compiling a breakdown of the number of candidates for the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, designed to help Afghan interpreters and others who have served alongside Americans side by side, how many are considered other “Afghans at risk,” such as journalists and human rights workers, and how many fall into other categories.
According to the Associated of Wartime Allies, up to 20,000 special visa applicants live in the country, not counting their families and others who are eligible to come to the US.
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 the Renewal of America, said he did not believe the refugees had undergone adequate investigation.
“It’s unattainable as a simple administrative matter,” he said of the process. While Cuccinelli, like Miller, believes that SIVs should be allowed to come to the US, he argues that the other refugees should be relocated to the region, closer to home.
“[The] ‘mass imports of potentially hundreds of thousands of people who do not share American cultural, political or ideological communities pose serious risks to both national security and wider social cohesion,’ ‘he wrote in a recent statement on the group’s website Pew Research Center. mention. opinions on beliefs about Islamic law and suicide bombings.
Other former administration officials strongly disagree with this inflammatory language.
“Some of the people who have always been immigrants mistakenly see it as an opportunity before the medium term, to miss a better term, and to fear ‘I do not want these people in my country,'” he said. Alyssa Farah, a former Pentagon press secretary who also served as White House communications director under Trump.
Farah said she was working to politely shift “Republican sentiment” from arguments she saw as factually false and politically dubious.
The Republican Party, she noted, includes a majority of veterans – many of whom worked closely with Afghans on the ground and led the push to help their former colleagues escape – as well as evangelical Christians, who have historically welcomed refugees.