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Trump Aides aims to bolster GOP opposition to Afghan refugees

But Trump and his allies, who worked to sharply reduce refugee admissions during their tenure, insist refugees are a threat.

“Who are all the people entering our country? Trump asked in a recent statement. “How many terrorists are there among them?

With the United States facing a host of challenges, it’s unclear whether voters will see immigration as a top priority next year. It was a key motivator for voters in the 2018 midterm elections, with 4 in 10 Republicans identifying it as the number one issue facing the country, according to data from AP VoteCast. But it became much less salient two years later, when just 3% of voters in 2020 – including 5% Republicans – named it the No.1 problem the country faces amid the COVID pandemic – 19 and related economic issues.

As for refugees, 68% of Americans say they support the United States to welcome those fleeing Afghanistan after a security check, according to a Washington Post / ABC News poll in late August and early September. This includes a majority – 56% – of Republicans.

Party 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, RN.C., berated those in his party who suggested the Afghans posed a security risk.

Some of the skepticism expressed by the right has been exacerbated by the Biden administration’s refusal to date to account for who may have left Afghanistan during the chaotic US evacuation campaign from Kabul airport .

The State Department said more than 23,800 Afghans arrived in the United States between August 17 and August 31. Thousands more remain at US military sites overseas for screening and other treatment. But officials said they are still working to compile the breakdown of the number of applicants for the special immigrant visa program designed to help Afghan interpreters and others who have served side-by-side with Americans, how many are considered other “Afghans at risk,” such as journalists and human rights defenders, and how many fall into other categories.

The War Time Allies organization estimates that up to 20,000 special visa applicants remain in the country, not counting their families and others eligible to come to the United States.

Ken Cuccinelli, who served as Trump’s acting deputy secretary at the Department of Homeland Security and is now a senior researcher at the Center for Renewing America, says he doesn’t think refugees have been given sufficient scrutiny.

“It’s impractical for a simple administrative matter,” he said of the process. While Cuccinelli, like Miller, believes SIV should be allowed to come to the United States, he argues that other refugees should be resettled in the area, closer to home.

“The massive importation of hundreds of thousands of people who do not share American cultural, political or ideological commonalities poses serious risks to both national security and social cohesion at large,” he wrote in a recent position paper on the group’s website that quotes Pew. Survey by the Center for Research on Beliefs Concerning Sharia Law and Suicide Attacks.

Other former administration officials strongly disagree with such inflammatory language.

“Some of the people who have always been hardliners on immigration mistakenly see this as a pre-midterm opportunity to, for lack of a better term, stir up the 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 had made an effort to “politely shift Republican sentiment” from arguments she saw both bogus and politically questionable. The Republican Party, she noted, includes a majority of veterans – many of whom have worked closely with Afghans on the ground and led the effort to help their former colleagues escape – as well as evangelical Christians, who have historically welcomed refugees with open arms.

“It totally ignores the public feeling that Republicans should not be in favor of the relocation of Afghan refugees who have served alongside the United States,” she said. “The Christian community is there. The veteran community is for that.

___ Associated Press writers Hannah Fingerhut in Washington, Julie Watson in San Diego, and Ellen Knickmeyer in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.

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