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Stephen Miller and Kevin McCarthy Double Down on Demonizing Allies of American Veterans from Afghanistan

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Broad support among Americans to help those who risked it all to stand with us

Washington, DC – At first, it seemed that Republicans would rally to the cause of rescuing and resettling Afghans who risked their lives to help America. Increasingly, however, the nativist core of the GOP is reasserting itself. Stephen Miller, Tucker Carlson, anti-immigrant leaders – enabled and encouraged by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) – are demonizing and dehumanizing the very people that American veterans and NGOs are fighting to bring to America.  

  • Stephen Miller: Appearing on Fox News last Sunday, Miller made the outlandish claim that the Biden administration was helping “every person in the world who is living under Islamic theocracy” resettle in the U.S. He added, “this open-ended obligation to take up every one of the 40 million people who would prefer to live here than under Sharia law is clinically insane! And we will rue the day that we made that decision.” Earlier, Miller said “Resettling in America is not about solving a humanitarian crisis, it’s about accomplishing an ideological objective to change America.” Miller did not have anything to say about the fact that his efforts to thwart the Afghan SIV program, outlined in this HuffPost piece, has been a key factor in the slow processing and bureaucratic bungling of Afghan SIV evacuations.
  • Tucker Carlson: The leading voice of white nationalism and “replacement theory,” Tucker Carlson has been busy stoking fear: “Who exactly are these Afghans, many of whom are on their way here? The truth is, despite what they’re telling you, we have no real idea. We don’t know.” He added, “we will see many refugees from Afghanistan resettle in our country in coming months, probably in your neighborhood. And over the next decade that number may swell to the millions. So first, we invade and then we’re invaded.”
  • Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) writing at National Review tried to fuel the rightwing narrative of poor screening, when it’s clear that the Afghan screening is thorough and intense, with this tortured conclusion: “under today’s conditions, meaningful vetting of Afghans is literally impossible … There is no connection between the vetting of Afghans and their admission to the United States. The moment the doors of a C-17 closed on the tarmac in Kabul, every Afghan on board, regardless of background or possible security threat, became a de facto permanent resident of the U.S.”
  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, ever ready to push fear and hate to placate his caucus, had this to say on the prospect of resettling Afghan refugees: “We’ll have terrorists coming across the border.” McCarthy added, “I will tell you, from an ISIS, from al-Qaeda, and from a Taliban point of view, do you think they’ll take advantage of this situation? Do you think they put some people in there? I pretty much believe they would.”
  • Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA): Appearing on Greta Van Susteren’s show, Rep. Perry did his best imitation of Trump himself, saying, “I’m not going to be responsible for seeing our little girls raped and killed in the streets because we wanted to bring people that are poorly vetted into the United States.”

Thankfully, veterans groups, former government officials and the strong majority of Americans have a different vision for Afghan allies and America’s responsibilities.

  • 45 Veterans’ groups across the political spectrum in a letter to President Biden: “Failing to meet our obligations to these Afghans would not only be a national security risk… it would also condemn veterans and survivors of the conflict in Afghanistan to a lifetime of moral injury.”
  • Spencer Sullivan, a former Army cavalry officer who served in Afghanistan on Stephen Miller’s objectives in establishing bureaucratic hurdles for Afghan SIV applicants: “My guess is that is in line with Stephen Miller’s policy of keeping brown people out of the country.”
  • Matt Zeller, veteran and founder of No One Left Behind on Stephen Miller: He “never wore a uniform a day in his life. He’s a privileged little brat. He ought to be held for war crimes.”
  • Olivia Troye, former Trump White House security advisor who spent significant time in Afghanistan on Afghan allies and our responsibilities: “These people became like family to many of us. It’s really shameful to see some of these Republicans speaking in this way about people who really risked their lives to help us, who were really our allies on the ground.”
  • Alyssa Farah, former Trump White House communications director: “To those on the right suggesting they aren’t vetted and we shouldn’t be willing to take them in: they were vetted enough to be co-located with U.S. forces and to put their lives on the line to help them. Those opposing relocating refugees to the U.S. are egregiously misreading public sentiment, especially within the Christian community in the U.S.”
  • William Galston in Wall Street Journal column, “Doing the Honorable Thing Divides the GOP: Galston writes, “The U.S. has a moral obligation to the Afghans we left behind. Washington should use all the leverage it has left to ensure that Afghans whose association with America puts them in danger can leave their country and, if they pass stringent vetting, settle within our borders. After we withdrew from Saigon in 1975, the U.S. allowed hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, Cambodians and others from the region to immigrate. They have strengthened and served our country and are among its most loyal citizens. Early surveys indicate strong grass-roots support across party lines for such a policy, but whether it continues will depend on the behavior of political leaders in the coming months.”
  • Washington Post editorial, “Afghan refugees will know indifference, bigotry — and also kindness — in America. They will also make it better: “We’ve seen this movie before, and we know, too, how its plot is likely to develop. The newcomers will face daunting struggles, some with language, or jobs, money and cultural acclimation. Their children, their lives divided between immigrant homes and American schools, will struggle, too, but many will strive and succeed — often beyond their parents’ wildest imaginings. They will become as thoroughly American as their native-born peers, and their energy, ambition and pluck will be an enduring gift to their new country.”
  • The overwhelming majority of the American public: Recent polling from CBS News finds that Americans support helping “Afghan translators enter the U.S.” by a 81-19% margin – with support from 90% of Democrats, 79% of Independents, and 76% of Republicans. 

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, 

The tens of thousands of American men and women who served in Afghanistan are making it loud and clear: it’s time for us to stand with those Afghans who stood with us in Afghanistan. They protected us, and it’s time for us to protect them. 

Enter the White identity cheerleading squad of Stephen Miller, Tucker Carlson and Kevin McCarthy. They are stoking fear and hate in hopes of keeping Afghans who risked their lives for Americans out of America. 

We have a moral obligation to stand up for our Afghan allies and to call out Stephen Miller and his ilk for their dehumanizing nativism. We are a stronger country when we are a welcoming nation and embrace our highest national ideals, not when we listen to those who seek to divide us and keep America walled off from the world. 

Sure, they are politicizing this in their desperate drive to reclaim and hold onto power. But we would be wise to remember that racism and xenophobia may mobilize the core GOP voter, but it backfires with the multiracial majority. As America faces yet another moment of truth, it’s time for those of us who believe in a better version of our nation to stand up for our values and our commitments.