Afghan refugees head to Kansas, but lawmakers choose scaremongering over hospitality

September 17, 2021 1:00 pm

Demonstrators from the “Save Afghan Lives” protest chant as they march toward the U.S. Capitol on Aug. 28, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Liz Lynch/Getty Images)

U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall and U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner want you to know they’re deeply concerned about the nearly 500 Afghan refugees who might be headed to Kansas. They want you to be too, which is why they’re dropping scary sounding words.

Terrorism. Taliban. Biden. MEASLES.

The lawmakers had made much of the rushed U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, castigating President Joe Biden’s administration for any failings. How dare we leave behind the brave Afghans who helped us? How dare we desert our allies? What about the women and children left to the Taliban?

Just don’t bring them here. Or if you must, make sure they’re thoroughly vetted somewhere else, far from the pristine folk of Kansas who would never be involved in any terrorism-adjacent activities. We’ve grown to expect hypocrisy from politicians, but they don’t often expose their contradictions so clearly. That’s why we’re going to look at the bulk of Marshall and LaTurner’s statements from Thursday, along with pointed annotations.

Let’s begin with Sen. Marshall’s statement:

“While we try to show compassion, this Administration must not waiver in its efforts to ensure the safety and wellbeing of Kansans and all Americans. Period.”

The word is waver. As in “to weave or sway unsteadily to and fro.” As in, Marshall is wavering in his support of our Afghan allies with this ridiculous response.

Having already seen FELONS, as well as a number of individuals with MEASLES make it through the vetting process, Governor Kelly must ensure ALL refugees stepping foot in Kansas have been vetted to the highest degree in a third country to safeguard our national and state’s security.”

Having brushed off compassion with a single clause, Marshall rushes to declare refugees unclean and dangerous. Marshall’s own link puts the number of Afghan felons at two out of tens of thousands of refugees, which conveniently allows him to make the word felon plural. And really, what’s with the capitalization? Did someone’s Facebooking grandparent spend an afternoon writing this release?

“We must protect against those who may wish to do Americans harm and the potential public health threat that accompanies individuals relocating from a nation that has minimal numbers of COVID vaccinations administered and concerning numbers of other infectious diseases such as polio, mumps, rubella, and tuberculosis.”

As a doctor, Marshall understands the importance of vaccines, and he’s advertised COVID-19 vaccinations. Would he support a vaccine mandate for these Afghan refugees? Surely not, given that it’s such a violation of civil liberties and autonomy for his constituents.

This news release came from Sept. 16. Just three weeks earlier, Marshall struck an entirely different note about our Afghan allies. On Aug. 26, he joined colleagues in writing a “bipartisan, bicameral LETTER to President Biden urging him to safely evacuate American citizens, Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants, and other at-risk populations — including women and children — from Afghanistan.”

Funny how much more idealistic Marshall was when the refugees weren’t headed to Kansas.

We turn now to LaTurner’s release:

“The execution of the withdrawal from Afghanistan by the Biden Administration was a catastrophe. President Biden’s complete lack of leadership and planning has led to hundreds of Americans and thousands of our allies stranded in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.”

I’m trimming a bit of anti-Biden boilerplate, but you get the idea. Please note the “thousands of our allies.” LaTurner begins to perform some sleight of hand here, because who wouldn’t want to help “allies,” especially in a land controlled by the Taliban?

“The United States also promised safety to our allies in Afghanistan, the men and women who risked their lives serving alongside our armed forces, and we must stick to our word. We all saw the heartbreaking photos revealing the chaos and lawlessness at Hamid Karzai International Airport — it was absolute mayhem.”

More patriotic talk of allies. Having read this paragraph, we can all be confident that Jake “Stick to His Word” LaTurner is going to really look out for those brave men and women. Too bad they have to put up with all the “chaos and lawlessness,” all at an airport bearing a prominent Afghan politician’s name.

“While it’s critical that we get Americans home safely and our allies out of Afghanistan, it’s also critical that the Biden Administration ensures no corners were cut and every single evacuee entering our country receives a complete and thorough vetting process. My colleagues and I on the Committee on Homeland Security are working to ensure the Biden Administration doesn’t put Americans at risk here at home. With radical terrorism once again on the rise, it’s vital that we remain vigilant in protecting our homeland.”

Did we say allies? We must have misspoken. They were allies at the airport, but now they’re evacuees, and every single one of them must be thoroughly examined. Why? Because of radical terrorism. Sorry, we just got a note from Sen. Marshall’s staff. That should be RADICAL TERRORISM. On a serious note, please remember that the Afghans in question risked their lives by working with America to stop radical terrorism.

Speaking of terrorism, Marshall and LaTurner both sound very concerned. But both of them voted against certifying Biden’s victory on Jan. 6. Their objections to one of the most secure and accurate elections in the history of our country gave aid and comfort to a homegrown insurrection. Arguably the greatest terrorist threat facing America right now comes from domestic extremists, not our Afghan allies.

What should Marshall and LaTurner say instead?

They should say what true proud, patriotic folks would say: Welcome to our country. We’re glad you’re here. What can we do to help your families and build your future in this great land? That’s what nearly every Kansan would say. It’s a shame their elected officials can’t bring themselves to do it.

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Clay Wirestone
Clay Wirestone

Clay Wirestone serves as Kansas Reflector's opinion editor. His columns have been published in the Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle, along with newspapers and websites across the state and nation. He has written and edited for newsrooms in Kansas, New Hampshire, Florida and Pennsylvania. He has also fact checked politicians, researched for Larry the Cable Guy, and appeared in PolitiFact, Mental Floss, and cnn.com. Before joining the Reflector in summer 2021, Clay spent four years at the nonprofit Kansas Action for Children as communications director. Beyond the written word, he has drawn cartoons, hosted podcasts, designed graphics and moderated debates. Clay graduated from the University of Kansas and lives in Lawrence with his husband and son.