Nearly 70% of Americans favor allowing certain categories of Afghan refugees, including those who worked for coalition forces in Afghanistan, into the United States because “we owe them,” according to a survey released this month.
That support includes 64% of Republicans, 80% of Democrats and 64% of independents, according to the latest NPR/Ipsos poll. And the approval of Afghan refugees was found to far outstrip that for other refugees and immigrants, including welcoming migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border and granting legal status to Dreamers, among others.
The survey confirms observations by refugee resettlement officials that the plight of Afghans during the chaotic fall of their nation engendered a concerned and welcoming spirit among Americans across the political spectrum. Those experts have reported that conservative, moderate and liberal religious groups have been willing and ready to provide food, shelter and accompaniment ministry to the 60,000-plus Afghans estimated to be arriving in the coming weeks and months.
“Roughly three in four Americans believe the situation with the evacuation of Afghan civilians who worked with the U.S. in Afghanistan is a problem, with a majority saying it is a major problem,” Ipsos said in a summary of the poll. “The survey, conducted in the days immediately following the final U.S. flights out of Afghanistan, shows widespread support for admitting certain Afghan refugees, including those who either worked with the U.S. government or served in the U.S. allied special forces, into the United States.”
By grouping, 74% of respondents favor resettling Afghans who worked for the U.S. government during the war while 73% feel that way about Afghans who served in Afghan military units that fought alongside the coalition. Support for resettlement drops to 65% for those who fear persecution or repression by the Taliban, which has resumed control of the country.
And the welcome mat isn’t as wide for refugees fleeing hunger, famine and armed conflict in other nations, Ipsos added in its report.
“In comparison, a smaller majority favor admitting people fleeing violence in other areas of the world into the U.S., specifically those from the African continent (59%), Syria and Libya (56%) or Central America (56%).”
A key factor in the difference lies with Republican attitudes toward refugees, Ipsos said. “Strong majorities of Republicans favor admitting certain groups of Afghans, but fewer than half feel the same about people fleeing from other areas of the world.”
Previous polling by Pew Research Center revealed a steady decline in support for refugee resettlement among conservatives beginning during the Trump presidency.
“Today, about a quarter of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (26%) say the nation has a responsibility to accept refugees into the country, down from 35% in February 2017.”
“Republicans have become less likely to say the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees. Today, about a quarter of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (26%) say the nation has a responsibility to accept refugees into the country, down from 35% in February 2017, a few weeks after President Donald Trump took office,” Pew reported in 2018.
That research found much stronger support for refugee resettlement among Democrats. “As was the case last year, liberal Democrats (85%) are more likely than conservative and moderate Democrats (65%) to say the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees.”
But organizations that resettle refugees and minister to them in the United States are capitalizing on the goodwill being extended to Afghans who narrowly escaped as American forces withdrew from their country last month. They have reported an immense spike in offers of support from civic clubs, businesses and religious groups across the theological and political spectrum offering dwellings, money and other assistance to incoming Afghan refugees.
“We have not seen this with Syrian, Iraqi, Burmese and other refugees,” said Ali Al Sudani, programs officer with Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston.
Afghans’ role as wartime allies earned them the strong backing of Americans.
“The primary reason for those who support Afghan refugees resettling here is that ‘they helped us in Afghanistan, so we owe them’ (59%),’” Ipsos said. “Secondary reasons revolve around how refugees play into American culture/identity, including, ‘Sheltering refugees is part of America’s heritage and principles’ (42%), and ‘the U.S. has a moral responsibility to help others’ (38%).”
But the issues of refugees and immigration are largely determined along partisan lines.
“Democrats are much more likely to agree that immigrants are part of our identity and that the U.S. has a moral obligation to accept refugees. At the same time, Republicans are more likely to favor a further pause (except in the case of Afghan refugees) and prioritize hiring people of this country over immigrants when jobs are scarce. Neither group has shifted their opinion significantly since May.”
Love ’em and leave ’em: America walks out on Afghanistan | Opinion by Erich Bridges