Except they’re not really on the same rhetorical page as Trump himself.
While attacking President Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal over the weekend, Trump endorsed providing refuge.
“Can anyone even imagine taking out our Military before evacuating civilians and others who have been good to our Country and who should be allowed to seek refuge?” Trump said Monday.
Trump echoed the point during an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity on Tuesday night.
“We could have 40,000 Americans — not to mention others, like people that helped us in Afghanistan,” Trump said while talking about the languishing evacuation effort. (The 40,000 estimate is on the high end; the Biden administration pegged it around 10,000 on Tuesday.)
Trump added that there should be vetting of would-be refugees, but he clearly doubled down.
“By the way, I’m America-first, okay? The Americans come out first,” Trump said. “But we’re also going to help people that helped us. And we have to be very careful with the vetting, because you have some rough people in there, but we’re going to help those people.”
There is some nuance here, including just how many people Trump thinks should be granted refugee status (vs. just allowing planes full of people in). Some Trump allies have also suggested that perhaps the former president means these people should be resettled in other countries rather than the United States — though his “vetting” comment suggests that this would be an issue involving the U.S. homeland.
It also seems entirely possible — and indeed quite likely — that this is merely political theater rather than any truly held belief. This is the man, after all, who routinely cast suspicion on Syrian refugees and slashed refugee admissions to their lowest levels in decades while president. His administration drastically reduced visas for interpreters in Afghanistan and Iraq and effectively abandoned the U.S.'s Kurdish allies in Syria. Suddenly playing up the importance of providing refuge is a way to attack Biden for failing to do so, and there’s nothing Trump likes better than an easy attack.
But the thrust of his comments is unmistakable, and it’s a far cry from where some of his most ardent supporters and fellow refugee skeptics have been in recent days.
Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham have been leading the charge against allowing Afghan refugees, with Carlson comparing it to an invasion and hyperbolically suggesting that millions of them might be admitted in the coming years. “So first we invade, and then we are invaded,” Carlson said.
“Is it really our responsibility to welcome thousands of potentially unvetted refugees from Afghanistan?” Ingraham said on her Monday show. “All day, we’ve heard phrases like, ‘We’ve promised them.’ Well, who did? Did you?”
Former Trump adviser Stephen Miller alluded to the replacement-theory argument which some conservatives have warmed to in recent years, despite its racist roots.
“Resettling in America is not about solving a humanitarian crisis, it’s about accomplishing an ideological objective — to change America,” Miller told Ingraham on Tuesday.
J.D. Vance, a one-time Trump critic who has sought to curry favor with Trump’s base during his campaign for Senate in Ohio, added: “While many of the Afghanistan people are good people, there are bad ones too who do not like Americans or our Western way of life. Resettling them in the United States so that our country becomes a refugee camp is not the answer.”
So much about this situation will play out in the coming days and weeks, and there are no easy answers. What’s more, the Biden administration is reportedly also skittish about the political impact of allowing too many refugees — something that has drawn criticism from some on the left.
But as we confront the aftermath of the evacuation effort, it’s worth noting the dissonance between the ascendant refugee-skeptic wing of the GOP and the man who paved the way for it.