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There’s no evidence that President Joe Biden intentionally let Afghanistan fall to the Taliban as part of a scheme to bring in “a couple hundred thousand more” refugees, change the U.S. population and give Democrats permanent political control.
Refugees who resettle in the U.S. from Afghanistan or any other country have to become U.S. citizens before they can vote in elections, and that process takes years — at least six before they can even apply after entering the U.S.
Even if all the internally displaced Afghans the United Nations says were forced from their homes in 2021 were to become voting citizens of the U.S., there’s no indication that they would all vote for Democrats or be able to sway elections.
Hours before President Joe Biden addressed the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in a speech to the nation, one conservative commentator falsely accused Biden of intentionally letting the country fall as part of a "sinister" plot to boost Democrats’ political prospects.
"The most important thing for the Democrats is having permanent political control," Charlie Kirk said Aug. 16 on his radio show and podcast. "Now, you might be saying, ‘Alright Charlie, what does the fall of Kabul have to do with Democrats taking over political control?’"
Kirk, the founder and president of Turning Point USA, continued:
"President Joe Biden's Department of Defense will accept 30,000 Afghan refugees into military installations following the collapse of Kabul. Boom, political transformation. Let the country crumble. Do you know there's 5 million displaced people in Afghanistan now? This was all intentional. Joe Biden let it fall apart to now say, ‘Oh, I'm so sorry.’ …
"Do you see what's going on here? What's going on here is Joe Biden wants a couple hundred thousand more Ilhan Omars to come into America to change the body politic permanently."
There were several factual and logical problems with Kirk’s claims.
For one thing, it takes several years before a refugee resettled in the U.S. can become eligible to vote. And more to the point, there’s no evidence of the plot that Kirk described on his show.
"I have seen no evidence that President Biden let Kabul fall or took the actions he did related to Afghanistan so that the U.S. could bring in more refugees and change the population in a way that favors Democrats," said Christopher Preble, a foreign policy expert at the Atlantic Council.
Kirk’s claim echoed the "replacement theory," which is often found in white supremacist rhetoric and warns that the U.S.’s white European population is being replaced by non-white immigrants.
A spokesperson for Kirk said Kirk was expressing an opinion. But he presented his claims as fact, and the next day, he claimed again that the Democrats’ agenda is "more people into the United States."
"Their goal is: Go break the country, cause chaos, give the American people a sense of guilt and a sense of an obligation to then go all-of-a-sudden accept the continued cultural transformation of America," Kirk said Aug. 17. Other conservative commentators, including Tucker Carlson and Tomi Lahren, made similar claims or suggestions about a ploy to bring in more refugees.
Rep. Ilhan Omar is a Democratic congresswoman representing Minnesota. She was a refugee from Somalia, which is in Africa.
Taliban fighters patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug. 19, 2021. (AP)
The Taliban’s swift takeover of Afghanistan marked an end to the roughly two decades of American intervention that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. With little resistance from the Afghan forces funded with billions of U.S. dollars, the Taliban took back control in just a few weeks.
But there’s no evidence that the fall of Kabul, the Afghan capital, was the "intentional" outcome of a Biden scheme to change the U.S. population in favor of Democrats, as Kirk claimed.
"He did not have to let the government fall to generate Afghan refugees," said Barnett Rubin, a senior fellow at the Center for International Cooperation at New York University.
Asked about Kirk’s claim, the White House pointed to Biden’s speech to the nation. In it, he laid much of the blame for Kabul’s fall at the feet of the Afghan leaders who fled the country and the Afghan military he said "collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight."
President Joe Biden speaks about Afghanistan from the White House on Aug. 16, 2021, in Washington. (AP)
Biden acknowledged that the Taliban seized power quicker than anticipated, and that the U.S. withdrawal was "far from perfect." But there’s no proof that the president "let it fall apart" on purpose to boost his party’s political prospects — and Kirk offered none.
Preble, of the Atlantic Council, said responsibility for the failure of Afghan forces to withstand the Taliban rests more with past administrations than with Biden’s. "The United States, going back to George W. Bush’s administration, spent nearly $89 billion to train these forces," he said.
Biden said following through with the withdrawal from Afghanistan fulfilled his promise to end the prolonged, costly and unpopular conflict. He argued that more time in Afghanistan would make little difference, and that resources would be better spent focusing on counterterrorism.
He also said he feared opening U.S. troops up to attacks from the Taliban if he reneged on the agreement negotiated by former President Donald Trump, who made the original deal scheduling the withdrawal of U.S. forces. The final 2,500 U.S. forces began to leave Afghanistan in May.
The Defense Department referred PolitiFact to press secretary John Kirby’s public statements. Kirby has said the U.S. was caught off guard by how easily the Afghan forces backed down.
Kirk suggested that the potential arrival of more Afghan refugees would have a dramatic impact on the U.S. electorate — enough to give Democrats "permanent political control" in a country of roughly 331 million people.
Kirk offered no evidence that Afghan refugees would vote for Democrats, or that they would vote at all. Even if all 400,000 of the internally displaced Afghans the United Nations says were forced from their homes in 2021 were to somehow become voting citizens of the U.S., there’s no guarantee that they would all cast their ballots for Democrats or be able to sway elections. More than 159 million people voted in the 2020 election, and Biden won by 7 million votes.
What’s more, it would be years before the fraction of them who could realistically reach U.S. soil could become U.S. citizens eligible to vote in elections — and that doesn’t account for the typical, multi-year delays involved in getting designated as a refugee or securing a special immigrant visa, earning admission into the U.S. and becoming naturalized.
"No one can enter as a refugee or green card holder and automatically become a U.S. citizen," said Susan Akram, a clinical professor of law at Boston University School of Law.
Refugee resettlement is the process through which refugees fleeing persecution in their home countries are transferred from the country in which they have sought protection to a third nation that has agreed to admit them and potentially grant them permanent residence.
Migrants walk in the countryside in Tatvan, in Bitlis Province, eastern Turkey, on Aug. 18, 2021. (AP)
Refugees who come to the U.S. must wait one year after entering to apply for lawful permanent resident status, said Karla McKanders, a clinical law professor and the founding director of the Immigration Practice Clinic at Vanderbilt Law School. Once they achieve that status, they have to wait five more years before they can start the multi-step process to become a U.S. citizen.
That’s in addition to the time spent before refugees reach the U.S., McKanders said. In Nashville, McKanders said she has represented Kurdish refugees who spent up to a decade in refugee camps before they were even interviewed to determine if they could resettle in the U.S.
Plus, it’s not immediately clear how the situation in Afghanistan will affect the flow of refugees and other migrants into the U.S. and elsewhere, and there are limits on the number of refugees the U.S. can bring in to begin with.
Biden has allocated new funds for relocating refugees, and governors from both parties have expressed willingness to take in people fleeing Afghanistan. In his speech, Biden said the U.S. is expanding refugee program access to cover certain Afghans who worked for a U.S. embassy, nongovernmental organization or media outlet and are referred by their employers.
To support Kirk’s claim, Kirk’s spokesperson pointed to Biden’s vow to eventually increase refugee admissions from all countries to 125,000. The spokesperson claimed that Afghanistan’s collapse could be used to justify bringing tens of thousands of refugees in.
Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk speaks during a summit at the Marriott Marquis in Washington on July 23, 2019. (AP)
But Biden set the refugee admissions cap to 62,500 for the 2021 fiscal year. And the system, whittled down under Trump and the pandemic, is still operating on a smaller scale and with delays, said Akram, who also directs Boston University’s International Human Rights Clinic.
Fewer than 500 Afghans have been admitted to the U.S. as refugees this year, Akram said.
Interpreters and others who worked for the U.S. government may be eligible for what are known as "special immigrant visas," which are granted separate from the refugee program. These visa recipients are not classified as refugees under the legal definition, and their admission does not count against the annual U.S. cap on refugees from around the globe, according to the New York Times. But only 34,500 special immigrant visas have been allocated to Afghans in total since December 2014, although applicants can typically bring spouses and children, who do not count toward that limit. Thousands of those cases remain backlogged, experts said
Kirk referenced a Fox News report that the U.S. plans to potentially house up to 30,000 Afghan special immigrant visa applicants at military bases. But whether these Afghans ultimately settle in the U.S. or another country, they will likely also face processing delays, experts said.
"The process to immigrate to the United States as a refugee, asylum seeker or if one is granted a special immigrant visa as an interpreter will not immediately change the demographics of the politic," McKanders said, adding that it’s "unlikely that 30,000 people will be resettled overnight."
Kirk said Biden "let it fall apart" in Afghanistan because he "wants a couple hundred thousand more Ilhan Omars to come into America to change the body politic permanently."
There’s no evidence that Kabul fell to the Taliban as part of an intentional scheme to change the U.S. population in a way that favors Democrats. And even in the highly unlikely scenario that all potential Afghan refugees were to become U.S. voters, there is no evidence about how they would vote or that their votes alone would serve to "change the body politic permanently."
There’s also no evidence that the withdrawal of U.S. troops, which happened largely on a schedule struck by Trump, was for that purpose, either.
In any event, it takes several years before a refugee resettled in the U.S. could become eligible to vote.
We rate this statement Pants on Fire!
Charlie Kirk on YouTube, "A Taliban Takeover Interrupts Joe Biden's Big Vacation | The Charlie Kirk Show LIVE 08.16.21," Aug. 16, 2021
Media Matters for America, "Charlie Kirk claims that the Biden administration intentionally let Afghanistan fall in order to bring refugees into the United States," Aug. 16, 2021
The U.N. Refugee Agency, "Resettlement," accessed Aug. 19, 2021
U.S. Department of State, "Special Immigrant Visas for Afghans - Who Were Employed by/on Behalf of the U.S. Government," accessed Aug. 19, 2021
NBC News, "Refugees welcome: Several states open arms to fleeing Afghans," Aug. 18, 2021
NBC News, "The coming U.S. political fight over accepting refugees from Afghanistan," Aug. 18, 2021
The Daily Beast, "Team MAGA Goes Full Nativist on Afghan Refugees," Aug. 18, 2021
The Wall Street Journal, "What’s Happening in Afghanistan?," Aug. 17, 2021
The Associated Press, "Costs of the Afghanistan war, in lives and dollars," Aug. 17, 2021
Fox News, "US prepares to house thousands of Afghan refugees on American military installations," Aug. 17, 2021
The Hill, "Biden authorizes $500M more for Afghan refugee relocation," Aug. 17, 2021
The White House, "Remarks by President Biden on Afghanistan," Aug. 16, 2021
Insider, "Despite Taliban threat, the US has accepted fewer than 500 Afghan refugees this year," Aug. 16, 2021
The New York Times, "Thousands Who Helped the U.S. in Afghanistan Are Trapped. What Happens Next?" Aug. 16, 2021
The New York Times, "Biden Defends Decision to Pull Out of Afghanistan," Aug. 16, 2021
The U.N. Refugee Agency, "UNHCR warns Afghanistan’s conflict taking the heaviest toll on displaced women and children," Aug. 13, 2021
The White House, "Statement by President Joe Biden on Refugee Admissions," May 3, 2021
International Rescue Committee, ""Your voice has so much power." Refugees describe voting for the first time," Oct. 26, 2020
The U.N. Refugee Agency, "Glossary," 2005
PolitiFact, "Vietnam and Afghanistan: Different wars, similar endings?" Aug. 17, 2021
PolitiFact, "Biden raises refugee cap to 62,500 for 2021," May 4, 2021
Email correspondence with the White House, Aug. 17, 2021
Email correspondence with the Defense Department, Aug. 17, 2021
Email interview with Andrew Kolvet, spokesperson for Charlie Kirk, Aug. 17, 2021
Email interview with Barnett Rubin, senior fellow at the Center for International Cooperation at New York University, Aug. 17, 2021
Email interview with Susan Akram, clinical professor of law and director of the International Human Rights Clinic at Boston University School of Law, Aug. 17, 2021
Email interview with Christopher Preble, co-director of the New American Engagement Initiative in the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council, Aug. 17, 2021
Email interview with Karla McKanders, clinical professor of law and founding director of the Immigration Practice Clinic at Vanderbilt Law School, Aug. 17, 2021
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