Lawmakers in both parties and across the political spectrum are urging the Biden administration to streamline the process for taking in Afghan refugees who assisted the U.S. and are now fleeing persecution from the Taliban, placing pressure on President Joe Biden to demonstrate the U.S.’s commitment to its partners amid a chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Expediting the relocation of Afghan interpreters, drivers and others – as well as their families – is widely supported by Democrats, with the 96-member Congressional Progressive Caucus calling for the U.S. to eliminate “bureaucratic delay” in processing.
Nearly 50 senators, including three Republicans, sent a letter to Biden officials urging them to create a new category of humanitarian parole – an emergency measure to house “otherwise inadmissible” migrants in the U.S. temporarily – for prominent Afghan women to fast-track their removals.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said “damn the red tape” in a statement on Tuesday, calling on Biden to “get people on planes to safety right now” and fly them to Kuwait “where we have the capacity to sort them out.”
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), said last week Biden should “urgently rush to defend, rescue and give and expand asylum,” and Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.), said on a Monday press call the administration “cannot give people a death sentence over typos and the wrong forms.”
Dozens of House Republicans sent a letter to Biden on Monday urging him to “safely and expeditiously get Americans and our Afghan partners out,” warning that leaving the Afghans would “almost certainly seal their face” and have “lasting repercussions” for the U.S.
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) expressed support for her state taking in refugees on Monday, stating in a Des Moines Register interview that Iowa has long been “very welcoming” to those who are fleeing “disaster” in their countries.
Thousands of Americans and Afghans seeking entry into the U.S. remain trapped at the Hamid Karzai Airport in Kabul days after the Taliban’s swift takeover of the capital city and President Ashaf Ghani’s escape from Afghanistan. The administration said Tuesday flights have resumed after a day-long pause, and more than 700 people, including 150 Americans, have been evacuated in the last 24 hours, with plans in place to evacuate as many as 5,000 to 9,000 people a day.
88,000. That’s the estimated number of Afghans applying for special immigrant visas, including the family members of those who assisted the U.S., according to the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. The State and Defense Departments said Sunday that just 2,000 had been evacuated at that point.
Right-wing Republicans have pushed back on the idea of allowing thousands of Afghan refugees into the U.S. “The chaos we’re seeing is not an excuse to flood our country with refugees from Afghanistan,” Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) said in a statement on Monday. Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.) tweeted, “Refugees must be vetted. Keep America Safe!” Former Trump aide Stephen Miller and Fox News host Tucker Carlson have voiced opposition as well.
Both living former Republican presidents have called for the swift evacuation of U.S. refugees. George W. Bush, who launched the war in Afghanistan in 2003, said in a statement on Monday the government “has the legal authority to cut the red tape for refugees during urgent humanitarian crises.” Donald Trump said in a statement earlier that Afghans who have “been good to our Country” should be evacuated before U.S. military personnel and “allowed to seek refuge.”
What To Watch For
Pentagon officials have expressed receptiveness to flying Afghan refugees out of Afghanistan before processing them. One plan the Pentagon is considering is relocating thousands to Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, according to Fox News and the Associated Press.