(Update 8/31/21): This article has been updated with an additional interview.
Mark Morgan, a senior fellow with the anti-immigration group Federation for American Immigration Reform, fearmongered on Sinclair Broadcast Group’s The National Desk on Tuesday that the U.S. “can literally be importing terrorists into this country” through its rescue and evacuation effort in Afghanistan. During the interview, anchor Jan Jeffcoat failed to question Morgan, who served as the head of Customs and Border Protection during the Trump era, about recent accusations that the administration had deliberately sabotaged the special immigrant visa system for Afghan allies.
Since August 14, a day before the Afghan government collapsed, the U.S. and other nations have flown out more than 70,000 people in a possibly unprecedented effort to evacuate American citizens, Afghans who assisted the U.S. during its war, and other people in danger from the Taliban. The evacuation includes scores of Afghans eligible for special immigrant visas, or SIVs. But tens of thousands are still waiting for their turn as the Trump administration had slowed the processing of SIV applications. In fact, when President Joe Biden took office, there was a backlog of more than 17,000 applications.
Sinclair’s The National Desk allowed Mark Morgan to fearmonger that Afghan refugees are terrorists
On August 24, Jeffcoat asked Morgan about the screening process for these SIV applicants. After Morgan acknowledged that “we absolutely have an obligation to protect them,” he fearmongered about the Afghans who helped U.S. forces and suggested that many of the Afghans the U.S. is evacuating may be terrorists:
Sinclair’s National Desk aired this disgraceful fearmongering about refugees fleeing the Taliban just a day after it celebrated the successful evacuation of Afghan ally Mohammad Khalid Wardak, a national police officer who spent years working with U.S. forces there. This program airs on 68 Sinclair-owned or -operated local TV stations around the country.
On August 31, Jeffcoat invited Morgan back on to continue fearmongering that some Afghans the U.S. evacuated from Kabul may be terrorists. She asked him to explain the vetting process, even though in his previous appearance he falsely suggested that the vetting process was abandoned.
Sinclair anchor failed to ask Morgan about alleged Trump administration sabotage of special immigrant visas for Afghan allies
Jeffcoat also missed an opportunity to ask the former high-ranking Trump immigration official about accusations that the administration he worked for deliberately sabotaged efforts to evacuate Afghans who helped U.S. forces. Olivia Troye, who was a homeland security adviser for former Vice President Mike Pence, “accused the Trump administration of distorting the truth about Afghan refugees, writing on Twitter that the former president and Stephen Miller, his top immigration adviser, sought to prevent the refugees from entering the United States.” According to The New York Times:
In an interview, Olivia Troye recalled sitting in meetings where Mr. Miller demanded restrictions on refugees, including those from Afghanistan and Iraq. She said the reductions in the refugee program during the Trump years hollowed out the government’s ability to bring the interpreters and others to the United States.
“Now we are in this crisis and they are saying Trump would have evacuated them,” Ms. Troye said. “But he didn’t in four years. You don’t get to play revisionist history here. There are people who know what the situation is.”
President Donald J. Trump and his allies have repeatedly claimed in recent days that his administration would have handled a withdrawal from Afghanistan better than President Biden, whom he criticized for failing to evacuate Americans and Afghans who worked with the United States. Top conservative commentators, including Ben Domenech, have tweeted in support of Mr. Trump.
Ms. Troye sought to rebut those claims on Twitter and in an interview, claiming instead that Trump administration officials had worked to undermine the immigration system that brings Afghan and Iraqi allies into the country by granting them a Special Immigrant Visa indicating they had supported the American war effort.
Mr. Miller “& his enablers across gov’t would undermine anyone who worked on solving the SIV issue by devastating the system at DHS & State,” she wrote on Twitter.
Troye also said in an MSNBC interview that “the resources on this [SIV] program were being gutted and they were being moved around elsewhere” by the Trump administration.
Esquire political writer Charles Pierce also pointed to a Twitter thread from Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who explained how Trump and other Republicans gutted the SIV and other refugee programs, making it harder to bring Afghan refugees to the U.S.:
Over the last decade, Republicans have pushed to intentionally create a massive backlog in the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program - the one we use to bring Afghan partners to America, by putting onerous conditions on the applications…In 2016, Obama asked to increase the cap for the SIV program. Senate Republicans objected. Then, the Trump Admin started slowing down SIV processing. When Biden took over, there were 10,000 unfilled visas, despite 17,000 applications in the pipeline.
This dovetailed with the assault by Trump and Republicans to destroy other refugee programs that bring Afghans to the U.S. Obama admitted over 2,700 Afghan refugees. Trump admitted 400, [because] he had dismantled the refugee system. Biden had to rebuild it. And today Trump Republicans are making it clear they will oppose bringing more Afghan refugees to the U.S.. Steven Miller: “Resettling [Afghans] in America is not about solving a humanitarian crisis; it’s about accomplishing an ideological objective to change America.”
News reports have documented the Trump administration’s deliberate slowdown in SIV processing for years
This information isn’t limited to recent Twitter threads and cable news interviews. A July 2018 article in The Atlantic explained that Trump slowed down special immigrant visa processing for Afghans who helped the U.S. soon after he took office:
Two months into the Trump administration, then–Secretary of State Rex Tillerson directed American embassies around the world to double down on visas and “increase scrutiny of visa applicants for potential security and non-security ineligibilities.” Since then, there’s been a stark decline in SIV arrivals. From January to June of 2017, 10,267 immigrants came to the U.S. on special immigrant visas. Over the same period in 2018, the number had fallen by more than half, to 4,166.
In 2019, a federal judge also ruled that the Trump administration violated federal law by delaying these SIVs. According to an NBC News report, “Documents revealed during the course of the case showed virtually all SIV applicants have faced delays beyond the nine-month limit for an answer on their visas and that an applicant can expect about a four-year wait.”
Morgan works for an extremist anti-immigrant group and regularly appears on Sinclair’s airwaves
Soon after the Trump administration ended, Morgan joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform as a senior fellow. As Media Matters has previously noted, FAIR is one of a trio of nativist organizations founded by white nationalist and eugenicist John Tanton, who explicitly wanted to keep the U.S. a majority-white country through limiting immigration. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center -- which has designated FAIR as an anti-immigrant hate group -- one of FAIR’s main goals is “upending the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which ended a decades-long, racist quota system that limited immigration mostly to northern Europeans.”
While Jeffcoat did disclose Morgan’s affiliation with FAIR during his recent appearance, she failed to mention the group's anti-immigrant stance. Morgan has been a frequent guest on Sinclair’s National Desk since it launched, where he regularly lies about immigration.