Afghan Refugees Coming to the U.S. Aren’t Unvetted Security Threats
It’s now less than one week until August 31, the deadline that President Joe Biden has set for the full U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan. An unknown number of American citizens and Afghans who assisted the U.S. military are still stuck there, and with the Taliban calling August 31 a “red line,” the pressure is on for a speedy evacuation.
There’s now a rift in the Republican Party over what the evacuation of Afghans should entail. On one hand, there are figures like Sen. Ben Sasse (R–Neb.) who support the evacuation of U.S.-affiliated Afghans who assisted American troops during the 20-year war in Afghanistan. “A great nation keeps its word,” he told Chris Wallace on Fox News last weekend. “We’re talking about men and women who risked their lives to protect Americans. They fought hand in hand with our troops and we made promises to them.”
But some loud voices are questioning the safety and sensibility of keeping those promises. Ohio Senate candidate and Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance rebuked Sasse in a video posted to Twitter on Monday. “Let’s help the Afghans who helped us,” he said, “but let’s ensure that we’re properly vetting them so that we don’t get a bunch of people who believe they should blow themselves up at a mall because somebody looked at their wife the wrong way.” Vance has found support from other nativists, including Fox News hosts Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, and former Trump adviser and immigration hardliner Stephen Miller.
Vance is raising concerns that by and large don’t apply to the class of Afghans we’re talking about letting in the U.S. The security vetting of “the Afghans who helped us” has been so rigorous as to render his protests completely nonsensical.
It’s important to distinguish between Afghans coming to the U.S. and those going elsewhere for intermediate processing. The people coming straight to the U.S. “have completed the rigorous security vetting process” associated with the special immigrant visa (SIV) program, according to State Department spokesman Ned Price. “SIVs who are not at a particular stage” and those “who aren’t part of the SIV program” will be processed in Qatar, Bahrain, and Germany, since they have undergone less vetting.
The SIV program is an immigration pathway that was established in 2009 to reward Afghans for “faithful and valuable service to the U.S. government.” Careful vetting is a baked-in feature of the intensive 14-step application process. An
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