Amid a full-blown border crisis that threatens national security and public health — for which the Biden administration is wholly responsible — a bipartisan group of lawmakers has decided this might be a good time to fast-track citizenship for around 76,000 Afghan nationals who were lucky enough to force their way onto the last planes out of Kabul a year ago.
Republicans have been unanimous in their criticism of President Biden’s handing of the border and immigration enforcement overall, correctly noting the reckless nature of the administration in turning loose a million or so illegal border-crossers, whom we know little or nothing about. Yet, Republican Sens. Roy Blunt, Lisa Murkowski and Lindsey Graham are joining with their Democratic colleagues in sponsoring the Afghan Adjustment Act, a bill that would eventually make citizens of 76,000 people from a country now controlled by an antagonist terrorist theocracy. The proposal also seeks to expand additional pathways for Afghans to enter the country.
Most of the Afghans who were airlifted out of Kabul when the Biden administration bugged out with its tail between its legs are probably decent folks who, understandably, would rather not live under the Taliban. Given the nature of the regime, it is also possible, if not likely, that some of those who made it onto the tarmac at the Kabul airport last summer were intentionally placed there by the Taliban or al Qaeda. In fact, a Department of Defense whistleblower recently reported that 324 of the individuals the Biden administration evacuated have appeared on the Pentagon’s watch list, including known and suspected terrorists. Others may have been heinous criminals — but these are things we’ll never know until it’s too late.
Among the many negligences of the Biden administration on the way out of Afghanistan was its failure to make arrangements to get Afghans who provided material support during our two-decade involvement in the country and who truly deserved to be resettled in the United States out of the country before the Taliban swept to power. We also left behind an unknown number of American citizens.
Thus, the overwhelming majority of Afghan nationals who entered the U.S. after the fall of Kabul were admitted under a broad (and legally questionable) exercise of parole authority. Given the harshness of the new regime — this is not the kinder, gentler Taliban its leaders advertised when it took power — the chances of these temporary parolees returning home any time soon are pretty slim. But that does not mean we owe them a fast track to citizenship.
Additionally, turning 76,000 random Afghans into U.S. citizens would serve as a further acknowledgment by our government that the Taliban is, and will remain, the unchallenged government of that country. The unmistakable signal will be that the United States holds out no hope that Afghans will be able to reclaim control of their country from the Taliban, further dispiriting those who might be brave enough to challenge the medieval theocracy from within.
Acceptance is one step short of the normalization of a regime that not only brutalizes its own people but serves as a haven and an incubator for global terrorism. If these members of Congress need any reminder of that, it is worth noting that Kabul was the last known address of Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Maintaining the status quo for the 76,000 Afghan nationals in question does not put them in harm’s way. On the other hand, rushing to turn them into citizens potentially puts everyone else in harm’s way. We have neither eyes, ears nor feet on the ground in Afghanistan. Not only can we not rely on the Taliban to provide us with background information about the people we are trying to vet (if those records even exist), we can safely assume that the regime will do all in its power to prevent us from identifying people who might pose a danger. Moreover, merely seeking that information could endanger family members who remain in Afghanistan. At the very least, maintaining people as parolees allows us to easily remove them when we uncover, through other means, that they pose some sort of threat.
Context is also important. And the context in which this legislation is being offered is a full-blown border crisis that is being deliberately perpetrated by the Biden administration. The last thing the country needs at this point is a bill that would divert the attention of the resource-starved and dispirited agencies attempting to cope with the Biden border crisis toward rubber-stamping the citizenship applications of people they know nothing about.
The wrong proposal at the wrong time — that’s the Afghan Adjustment Act in a nutshell.
• Dan Stein is president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.