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Poll: Americans Support Afghan Refugees, But Not All Equal in Resettlement

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Although Americans broadly support Afghan refugee resettlement efforts in the United States, they are considerably more likely to welcome Afghans who worked directly alongside American troops during the 20-year war effort than those who did not. have not.

A new survey from Vox and Data for Progress conducted September 17-20 found that 74% of likely voters – including 78% Democrats and 66% Republicans – were in favor of relocating Afghans who were military allies of the United States such as translators or forces special.

Fifty-eight percent of those polled, including 73 percent Democrats and 40 percent Republicans, supported the relocation to the United States of Afghans who have fled Taliban violence and persecution as they implement their vision of religious law. It is still a majority of likely voters. But this suggests that there are artificial limits to the willingness of some Americans to protect vulnerable refugees, as immigration has become a political wedge.

Data for progress

The discrepancy could be due to the perception among some Americans that they owe a unique debt to the Afghans who risk their lives for American troops and that it is their responsibility to uphold the military maxim of leaving no one behind, although they might not otherwise take a liberal stance on immigration issues.

But some Americans might not feel the same level of ownership of the plight of Afghan civilians – including NGO workers, women’s rights activists, and other minority groups – even as America’s withdrawal and l he failed nation-building efforts put them in jeopardy.

It’s a sign that the once bipartisan consensus on America’s role as a global humanitarian leader has deteriorated, and that right-wing efforts to turn voters against refugees might work. Republicans including the former president Donald trump, House Minority Leader Kevin mccarthy, senator from Texas. Ted cruz, and candidate for the Ohio Senate JD Vance have all wrongly argued that arriving Afghans are not properly screened for potential terrorist threats when in fact they must undergo a thorough security check in third countries before taking a flight to the United States, in addition to health checks and vaccinations.

For Republican voters who were drawn to Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric in 2016, however truthful it may be, such sentiments could be a message that will resonate midway through next year.

Americans are less supportive of resettling refugees in their own states and communities

Americans are less likely to favor Afghan resettlement if it happens in their own backyards. According to the Vox and Data for Progress poll, 53% said they would support the relocation of Afghan evacuees to the United States as a whole, but 48% said they would support doing so in their states and only 44% would welcome them. in their own communities.

Among independents, there appears to be a particularly large gap – around 11 percentage points – in support for the resettlement of refugees in their own communities compared to the United States as a whole. And among Republicans, resettlement support was below 33%, regardless of where the refugees went.

Graphic:

Data for progress

This is unfortunate, because even outside of the obvious altruistic arguments for helping vulnerable populations, Americans should also be loudly calling for bringing refugees to their communities for selfish purposes.

As Vox’s Jerusalem Demsas writes: “In small towns or cities in decline, they can help reverse depopulation trends that threaten the financial viability of the region. Even in growing regions where many people seek to live and work, refugees offer a clear economic advantage. “

Economists generally agree that population growth fuels economic growth in rich countries. But the United States is seeing dramatic declines in population growth, and parts of the United States are already starting to experience some of the disadvantages: The reduction in tax bases in rural areas has made it more difficult for government budgets to support essential services, such as infrastructure and public schools. As population growth slows, the pressure for cuts is likely to increase. Meanwhile, the current population continues to age; by 2030, the Census Bureau estimates that One out of five US residents will have reached retirement age.

With 80 percent of Americans living in counties that have lost population in the past decade, an influx of refugees could help stave off population decline.

Refugees are also employed at higher rates that Americans born in the country after six years of living in the United States and pay a on average $ 21,000 more tax than they received in benefits during their first two decades in the country.

Policy makers could encourage states and localities to opt for more refugee resettlement. President Joe Biden has already announced his intention to raise the annual ceiling for refugee admissions to 125,000 as of October, a move less than half of likely voters support, according to the Vox and Data for Progress poll. (Some Afghan refugees may not be immediately affected by the plug because of the way the United States has classified them.)

Biden is also looking to create a private refugee sponsorship program, which would allow private organizations and groups to financially support even more refugees for resettlement in the United States. In addition, there were also various proposals, some even approved by republican governors, to create a state-based visa program which would allow participating states to increase their immigration levels according to the needs of the local labor market.

There are clear economic arguments for resettling Afghan refugees in the United States, which could change attitudes towards refugees who become people’s neighbors. But it’s up to Democrats and Republicans to do it – and to create ways for states and communities to welcome them.