Astens of thousands of Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban arrive in the US, a handful of former Trump administration officials are working to turn Republicans against them. The former officials are writing position papers, appearing on conservative television outlets and meeting privately with GOP lawmakers — all in an effort to turn the collapse of Afghanistan into another opportunity to push a hard-line immigration agenda.
“It is a collaboration based on mutual conviction,” said Stephen Miller, the architect of President Donald Trump’s most conservative immigration policies and among those engaged on the issue. “My emphasis has been in talking to members of Congress to build support for opposing the Biden administration’s overall refugee plans.”
The approach isn’t embraced by all Republican leaders, with some calling it mean-spirited and at odds with Christian teachings that are important to the white evangelicals who play a critical role in the party’s base. The strategy relies on tactics that were commonplace during Trump’s tenure and that turned off many voters, including racist tropes, fear-mongering and false allegations. And the hard-liners pay little heed to the human reality unfolding in Afghanistan, where those who worked with Americans during the war are desperate to flee for fear they could be killed by the new Taliban regime.
But the Republicans pushing the issue are betting they can open a new front in the culture wars they have been fighting since President Joe Biden’s election by combining the anti-immigrant sentiment that helped fuel Trump’s political rise with widespread dissatisfaction with the Afghan withdrawal. That, they hope, could keep GOP voters motivated heading into next year’s midterms, when control of Congress is at stake.
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