As Republicans continue to rail against President Joe Biden’s handling of the situation in Afghanistan, where thousands of Afghan translators and their families are still waiting to get out of the country, many of the loudest voices in the party are drawing a firm line against resettling Afghan refugees in the United States.
The rhetoric from the Donald Trump wing of the party is threatening to drown out those on the establishment side who say the U.S. has a moral responsibility to help out.
Other prominent conservative media personalities added fuel to the fire by fearmongering about refugees, many of whom helped U.S. troops in the bloody 20-year war in Afghanistan.
Conservative activist Charlie Kirk surmised on his radio show that Biden intentionally withdrew from Afghanistan and allowed the Taliban to take over because “he wants a couple hundred thousand more Ilhan Omars to come into America to change the body politic permanently.” Omar, a Democratic congresswoman from Minnesota, immigrated to the U.S. as a refugee from Somalia.
“We’re playing checkers and they’re playing chess,” Kirk, a Trump supporter, concluded with confidence.
Steve Cortes, a host on the Trump-friendly outlet Newsmax, tweeted a viral image of a U.S. transport plane carrying hundreds of Afghans out of Kabul and said, “Raise your hand if you want this plane landing in your town?”
It’s not just media personalities, either. The anti-refugee sentiment is being fanned by some other notable voices within the GOP, including Rep. Matt Rosendale (Mont.) and J.D. Vance, who’s running for U.S. Senate in Ohio.
“I’d like to hear zero about Afghan refugees until we get every single American out first,” Vance tweeted on Wednesday.
Not everyone in the party is of the same mind. More traditional voices have argued that the U.S. shouldn’t leave behind its allies, like the Afghan translators who helped U.S. troops at great risk to their lives and the lives of their families.
“Over the past 20 years, thousands of Afghans have risked ― and in many cases sacrificed ― their lives, and the lives of their families, in aid of the United States,” Utah Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee said in a statement. “Oftentimes, they have safeguarded the lives of American troops. Now under immediate threat by the Taliban, we have a duty and moral obligation to assist these brave men and women.”
Three GOP senators ― Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma ― signed on to a letter calling on the Biden administration to “create a humanitarian parole category” for Afghan women leaders, activists, judges and other public figures to quickly and efficiently relocate to the U.S.
The Republican governors of Utah, Vermont, Oklahoma and Maryland have stated that Afghan refugees are welcome in their states.
Overall, though, the Republicans appealing to the country’s sense of morality in response to the flood of heartbreaking images pouring out of Afghanistan have less influence on the GOP base than its de facto leader, the former president, who continues to sound off daily about the situation.
“This plane should have been full of Americans. America First!” Trump said in a statement on Wednesday, referring to the viral image of Afghans being evacuated from their capital city.