The rapid takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban has potentially dire consequences for Afghan women and children. The Islamist group was able to commandeer sophisticated US weaponry and other military equipment during our poorly-planned troop withdrawal. And so Americans have been primed to cheer the arrival of planes carrying thousands of Afghan refugees, who we are told would otherwise be executed by the Taliban, into the United States.
But what are the long-term consequences of rapid refugee resettlement? Could this present a risk to national security? How will this effect Americans economically or culturally? I recently spoke to Stephen Miller, former senior adviser for policy for President Trump and founder of America First Legal, about the ‘second- and third-order effects’ inherent in quickly bringing in tens of thousands — and potentially millions — of people from a place where a jihadist ideology is prevalent.
The Biden administration has said that many of the Afghan nationals being allowed on US military flights out of the Kabul Airport are those with statutory eligibility for the Special Immigrant Visas Program (SIVP), passed by Congress. SIVs are given to Afghans who have provided assistance to the US war effort, particularly interpreters and translators.
Miller explained that the SIVP generally has a stricter screening process than your average refugee: ‘You have the program eligibility, you have the national security screening, and then you have the conventional immigration screening.’ However, he said, ‘because of the calamitous situation that was created in Afghanistan with the Taliban controlling all the avenues to and from the airport, no process of any kind is happening in terms of selecting people who are, in fact, statutorily eligible for the program.’
This means that individuals who have submitted applications but haven’t been approved (and their families) are being flown out of Kabul to third-party countries, where they will undergo security screenings before they head for the United States. That’s not to say that the United States should abandon those we promised a visa or citizenship in exchange for their help. But the Biden administration’s bungled withdrawal has made the situation at the Kabul airport so volatile and chaotic that they are unable to prioritize removing American citizens or Afghan nationals with approved SIVs. There are reportedly more than 1,000 American citizens still stuck in Kabul, even though we’ve managed to evacuate more than 80,000 people total. The dire consequences of failing to put Americans first in line and prolonging our departure became all too real on Thursday, when suicide bombers took out more than a dozen US Marines at the airport.
Nevertheless, politicos and the media are already moving the conversation past helping stranded American citizens and approved SIV holders and are pushing a more generalized refugee program for those who may be in danger from the Taliban. The New York Times claimed in a recent report that 300,000 Afghans are in ‘imminent danger’. Republican senator Ron Johnson warned that the Biden administration may already be flying unvetted ‘refugees’ into the United States ahead of American citizens and SIVs, foisting massive refugee resettlement onto the American people with little to no debate.
We are hearing disturbing reports that unvetted refugees are being flown into the US. Fewer SIV holders and American citizens on flights. Looking forward to being briefed at Fort McCoy today.
— Senator Ron Johnson (@SenRonJohnson) August 25, 2021
‘There’s a big difference between people who are statutorily eligible for a narrowly-devised visa program by Congress and a generalized refugee resettlement, which is one hundred percent the path that we are now heading down,’ Miller warned me. The latter could have serious implications for the United States for decades to come.
If you attempted to remove every person from Afghanistan who has worked with and for the US government and their families, Miller said, ‘you’re looking at probably somewhere in the realm of a million people.’
‘I don’t know many people who think the United States can accept a million people on airplanes from Afghanistan into our communities, and there won’t be any second- or third-order effects of that,’ Miller said.
That number gets even higher when you add in individuals who did not help the US effort but are still facing threats or violence from the Taliban. Then consider that refugee resettlement programs don’t just end after a period of a few weeks or months — they tend to last decades. Perhaps the best example of this is the Somali resettlement program. The United States first got involved militarily in Somalia in the mid-1990s, and was still importing tens of thousands of refugees into America during Obama’s presidency.
‘Once we as a country make the decision that dislocated and discontented and, yes, persecuted Afghan nationals should have as the first option for asylum in the United States of America, you’re making a decades long commitment,’ Miller explained. ‘In a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan a year from now, are we able to then say our obligation has ended? What about when there is a civil war that breaks out three years from now and people flood into Pakistan?”
There are serious national security concerns involved in a ‘decades-long’ commitment to Afghan refugees. The Justice Department screens refugees to see if they may be affiliated with terror organizations or on a terror watchlist, but it does not screen for ideology. A Pew Research poll from 2013 found that a stunning 99 percent of Muslims in Afghanistan supported Sharia law as the official law of the land. They are also the least likely among Muslims worldwide to object to honor killings (just 24 percent object) or afford women the right to decide whether or not they cover their faces. Seventy-nine percent of Afghan Muslims support executing Muslims who convert to other religions. Eighty-five percent support stoning women to death as punishment for adultery.
‘Our immigration system has an extraordinarily narrow way to sustain the public safety threats involved with migration from terrorist-compromised regions,’ Miller said. ‘When you have large pockets of migration from places where jihadist ideology is prevalent, it can easily create the conditions where large numbers of people, especially young people, can become radicalized or swept up into a radical fervor.’
Such was the case with the Syrian refugees who were resettled in Europe, especially those who spent long periods of time in refugee camps, which have been described as hotbeds for Isis. Syrian refugees have been convicted of being members of Isis and other terrorists have posed as refugees in order to gain entry to European countries. More commonly, Syrian refugees have been a driving factor of violent crime against women in the region.
Unfortunately, terror is even more often carried out by the children or grandchildren of refugees, who face a sort of identity crisis due to not fitting in with either their parents’s culture or where they were born/raised. That feeling of otherness among second-generation refugees can turn to hate directed at the country in which they live, either because it is blamed for not integrating refugees properly or for causing the poor conditions in the homeland that required those refugees to flee.
This is one reason to resettle refugees in safe third countries closer to home that provide better opportunities for assimilation — and the opportunity to return home when conditions improve, which is meant to be the objective of refugee resettlement, anyway. Plus, relocating Afghan refugees to places like Pakistan is more efficient and much cheaper than bringing them to the United States, where they then gain access to taxpayer-funded government resources.
‘Do we want these dislocated people to return to their country, and perhaps they can do what we can’t do for them, which is to win an independent future?’ Miller asked. ‘Well, they can’t do that if they come to the United States. Everybody in the US and US citizens are not going to renounce their citizenship after they put down roots in the United States of America. So we’re violating the principle of refugee resettlement.’
Still, refugee advocates will argue that America owes Afghans a safe place here because our (severely misguided) effort to win them a country free from the Taliban and other terroristic elements failed (quite miserably). Certainly there are many Afghanistans who loathed our 20-year presence in our country. Presumably, the ones who would like to seek refugee status in the US, however, were opposed to the Taliban. Do we really owe them the right to live in our country after sacrificing our own troops, dollars, and resources on their behalf?
‘It’s like during the American Revolution, if the French had supplied the majority of the firepower and then we’d said that anybody that does any service for the French needs to be made a French citizen when the war is over,’ Miller offered.
‘If you wanted to, you could remove people to a safe third country,’ Miller concluded. ‘And if they meet the statutory eligibility criteria, that’s the law that Congress passed. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about refugee resettlement. That is exponentially magnitudes greater than than a handful of people who are eligible for this congressional program.’
We were once told by President George W. Bush that ‘we will fight them over there so we do not have to face them in the United States of America.’ Twenty years later, and a poorly managed evacuation effort means we may very well be facing them here. This time, we’re rolling out the welcome mat.