The Biden administration this week made a request for $6.4 billion in funding for Afghan refugee resettlement and language that would allow for the tens of thousands of Afghans being brought in to quickly apply for permanent U.S. residency -- sparking conservative fears of "unlimited green cards" for those arriving into late 2022.
The language was included in a request for a continuing resolution (CR) to allow for lawmakers to pass a budget for fiscal year 2022, which also includes a $14 billion request for disaster relief.
The U.S. has been evacuating tens of thousands of Afghans out of Kabul amid the Taliban takeover and the U.S. drawdown from Afghanistan. It has seen U.S. citizens and Afghans brought out of the country to military bases in the region and in Europe before being flown to the U.S.
"The operation to move out of danger and to safety tens of thousands of Afghans at risk, including many who helped us during our two decades in Afghanistan, represents an extraordinary military, diplomatic, security, and humanitarian operation by the U.S. Government," Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Shalanda Young said.
The ambitious White House request would speed up processing and fund military bases where they are being processed. But it also seeks to allow all refugees who come in from Afghanistan and are paroled into the U.S. to apply for a green card after a year of having entered the U.S. if they have entered any time between July 2021 and the end of September 2022.
This would mean any refugee who entered the U.S. in recent weeks would be eligible for a green card by this time next year. A green card holder can then apply for U.S. citizenship within a few years.
As for background checks and screening, it specifies only that the refugees must complete the checks "in accordance with the policies and procedures put in place as part of Operation Allies Welcome (or any predecessor or successor operation) or equivalent background checks and screening."
Separately, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas may waive grounds of inadmissibility "on a case-by-case basis for humanitarian purposes, to assure family unity, or when it is otherwise in the public interest." The tens of thousands of entrants will also not count against the refugee cap, which the Biden administration raised significantly earlier this year.
The definition of "Afghan national" is also broadened to include "any other person who last habitually resided in Afghanistan who has no nationality."
The White House said in a call with reporters that it intends to bring in 95,000 Afghans and an additional 35,000 over the coming months -- although immigration hawks have noted that federal estimates of immigration influxes regularly suffer mission creep and expand beyond initial estimates.
While the vast majority of Republicans have been broadly supportive of the effort to bring Afghans into the U.S., a number are starting to object to the number of those coming in who are are deemed "at-risk" Afghans rather than those who specifically helped in the U.S. mission -- the White House has said the majority of those coming in did assist in the U.S. operation, even if they are not a Special Immigrant Visa applicant -- and that the broad scope requested by the CR will lead to enormous amounts of Afghans coming in, possibly for years to come.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., accused President Biden of trying "to award unlimited green cards to people who didn’t serve alongside our troops and who may even threaten our safety and health — all while exempting them from the normal refugee screening process."
"This proposal is just another chapter in Biden’s rolling fiasco of an Afghanistan policy," he said.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, told The Wall Street Journal that while he supports the resettlement of Afghan allies, "it is becoming abundantly clear that the majority of those being processed are Afghan evacuees without a record of supporting our efforts."
In an interview with Fox News, former senior Trump White House adviser Stephen Miller accused the Biden administration of trying to "codify open borders with Afghanistan."
"It is not an exaggeration but a literal truth that the Biden proposal is ‘If I Joe Biden can get a person on an airplane who lives today or has ever lived in Afghanistan and I can get them to set foot on U.S. soil, then they are placed on a path to citizenship and in turn can bring in their immediate relatives and exercise the right of chain migration, which of course spirals every outward.'"
Miller also expressed concern about the presence of Islamic radicalism in countries like Afghanistan, which he warned is more likely to infiltrate the U.S. if the numbers of those being allowed in increase.
"Open borders to Afghanistan, replete with green cards, citizenship and chain migration will bring into the United States, extremism, jihadism and Islamist fundamentalism," he said.
"That doesn’t mean that everybody who is living in Afghanistan subscribes to those viewpoints, but if you have large-scale migration from a region that has been continually Islamist in its orientation for centuries without any successful history of secular government or secular society, then by definition any kind of open-ended migration commitment is going to import those same ideas those same political traditions into Afghanistan into our country," he said.
Miller also noted from his time at the White House that inclusions in continuing resolutions are regularly renewed annually -- meaning the 2022 deadline could be extended even further next year.
Immigration hawks who had been sounding the alarm about the immigration program for months also hit Republicans who had initially agreed with the plan, saying it was the "slippery slope we warned about."
"Many well-intentioned Republican lawmakers and pundits fell into a trap, singing in unison with Democrats and mass immigration advocates that we must protect Afghan ‘allies’ by immediately bringing them here," RJ Hauman, head of government relations at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), told Fox News.
"Now, every Afghan is an ‘ally’ or ‘at risk’ and eyed for accelerated resettlement by the White House," he said. "If included in the CR, this request will improperly open the floodgates in a manner that is not only unfair but downright dangerous."
Meanwhile, the Biden administration has been moving to allay concerns about terrorists entering the U.S. via the process, and on Thursday Mayorkas was asked about the risk of ISIS infiltrating the homeland.
"We have a multi-layered, multi-agency screening and vetting process to make sure that doesn't happen," he said. "We screen and vet individuals before they board planes to travel to the United States and that screening and vetting process is an ongoing one and multi-layered."
Separately, a White House official told Fox News that screening and security are conducted by intelligence, law enforcement and counterterrorism officials from multiple agencies.
"Intelligence, law enforcement, and counterterrorism professionals are conducting screening and security vetting for all SIV applicants and other vulnerable Afghans, including reviews of biographic and biometric data, before they are permitted entry into the United States," they said.