Update (8/20/21): This piece has been updated with additional examples.
As thousands flee an unfolding humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, right-wing media have begun fearmongering about Afghan refugees seeking asylum in the United States.
Following the Biden administration’s recent withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan after 20 years of occupation, the Taliban have overrun much of the country over the last few weeks and captured the capital city of Kabul. Thousands of Afghans descended on the airport earlier this week in an attempt to escape Taliban rule, and President Joe Biden began to face pressure to provide asylum to Afghans who allied with the U.S. during the war. The administration later announced plans to relocate 30,000 refugees through Special Immigrant Visas; they will be initially housed at U.S. military bases.
After the U.S. played a significant role in creating one of the largest refugee populations in the world, the country now has a moral obligation to accept Afghan asylum seekers. As Washington Post columnist Ishaan Tharoor noted, “The country’s remaking under the watch of the United States got bumpy and the Taliban insurgency led to the steady takeover of large swaths of the country, making recent years some of the bloodiest on record for Afghan civilians.” David Vine of Business Insider noted the current amount of refugees being admitted is on the low end: “Given the dead and injured, the 5.9 million displaced, and the 30,000 now being displaced each week, welcoming one million Afghans to our country is just the start of making good on what we owe.”
But despite Biden’s conservative approach to refugee resettlement, the right-wing media -- from conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones to prime-time Fox news personalities -- are still choosing to instill fear in their audience’s minds by framing these refugees as a threat to U.S. citizens and repeatedly claiming they are “unvetted,” or even suggesting the collapse of the Afghan government was part of an intentional effort to increase immigration. Here are a few examples:
- On his August 16 show, Fox News host Tucker Carlson said America will be “invaded" by “millions” of Afghan refugees.
- The Ingraham Angle’s Laura Ingraham: “Is it really our responsibility to welcome thousands of potentially unvetted refugees from Afghanistan?”
- Fox News Primetime host Will Cain: “How do we balance that -- to uphold our honor and what we owe those who helped us but also protect Americans, because we can't just flood America with refugees that are fully unvetted.”
- Speaking on his podcast, Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk said Biden intentionally let Afghanistan fall because he “wants a couple hundred thousand more Ilhan Omars to come into America to change the body politic permanently."
- Alex Jones on Infowars: “The collapse of Afghanistan will now send, it’s estimated, 5 million Afghan refugees into Europe and the traitorous Pentagon leadership has already sent out an order to prepare for hundreds of thousand of Afghan refugees to be brought to Texas.” He went on to claim the crisis was “engineered” and that Biden “was chosen because he is senile” and “a double agent of the communist Chinese.”
- Breitbart: “Biden Accepts 30,000 Afghan Refugees, Exacerbating Open Border Policies.”
- Conspiracy theorist and One America News host Jack Posobiec tweeted: “They are really going to try to bring in unvetted refugees again.” He also tweeted:
- OAN host Dan Ball: “As the crisis spirals out of control at our border and in Afghanistan, how many terrorists do you think might come across the southern border? Taliban’s taking control of the country. They could have had folks down in South America or Mexico, just waiting. They could already be here.”
- Frequent OAN guest Lee Smith: “Rape appears to be a cultural norm in the society of Afghanistan -- and I'm sorry if that offends anyone's sensibilities, but all we have to do is look to the facts on the ground in Europe. And that will be coming to an American city and town near you.” Host Natalie Harp agreed.
- OAN’s Natalie Harp rhetorically asked her audience, “What's the vetting process? How do we know who these people are? How do we have any guarantee that we're not simply paying for a first-class ticket to resettle certain radical Islamic terrorists right next door? No, seriously, how do we know?”
- Speaking to a Texas law enforcement official about Afghan refugees being sent to U.S. military bases, Fox anchor and Senior Vice President Neil Cavuto on Your World said: “You don’t know, in the case of the Afghans, who they are, right? I mean, you’re responsible for them. And some questionable types could have gotten through and will get through. Even though it's fair to say most of course are leaving under legitimate asylum conditions and fear for their lives. I get that. But you have to go through them as well, right? You have to check them out as well.”
- Will Cain on Fox News Primetime: “With resettlement, comes risk -- especially when vetting thousands of people. That’s just being real. ... But can these local communities handle this influx of people? Look, can we keep our promise to our allies while also keeping America safe?”
- In the lead up to her segment on Afghan refugees, Laura Ingraham said: “The lesson of this 20-year war cannot be that every time we turn a country upside down or make huge mistakes, our immigration laws, our refugee laws no longer apply. … What about Europe's experience recently with millions of Syrian refugees and Afghan refugees and Iraqi refugees? And drawing any such parallels is deemed, well, you guessed it, racist.”
- During his appearance on Ingraham's show, white nationalist and former Trump adviser Stephen Miller said Afghan refugees are part of Democrats' plot to “change America” and claimed, “Those who are advocating mass Afghan resettlement in this country are doing so for political, not humanitarian, reasons” -- echoing the white nationalist “great replacement” conspiracy theory.
- Appearing on Fox & Friends, Fox Business host Charles Payne said: “The vetting process -- I know they say there’s one in place. But come on, look at the chaos that we have seen there, Ainsley. There is no real vetting in place. All those 600 men on that plane that we saw in the photograph, able-bodied men who left their families, their country behind? I mean give me a break.”
- Complaining about a “scourge” of Afghan refugees, Newsmax host Steve Cortes claimed: “The Afghan war was bad enough when it was being waged in Kandahar. Now, Joe Biden wants to bring it to Kentucky.”
- On his August 17 show, Tucker Carlson said: “How will this new wave of immigration affect America? Will America be a better country -- or will it be a little more like Afghanistan, which is to say, not really a better country.” He later quoted a source who described Afghan refugees as “notorious for barbaric attacks.”
- While talking to a representative from the nativist anti-immigration group Center for Immigration Studies on August 18, Laura Ingraham said: “In 9/11, you had all of these loopholes or gaping holes in our system that were exploited by the Saudi hijackers. They knew that they go to a school, they could stay or switch their visa or overstay their visa. And there is some concern that, look, there’s going to be vulnerabilities here. At the very least, there’s going to be an opportunity to game the system here. And who wants to game the system more but people who want to do us harm?”
- Newsmax host Grant Stinchfield on Afghan refugees: “They won’t assimilate and it won't be long before one of them could blow themselves up on a street corner in a city near you.”