Despite intense polarisation over immigration policies in the United States, a new poll released on Monday shows the majority of Americans are in favour of resettling Afghans who worked with US troops in Afghanistan.
The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll found that 72 percent of Americans said they supported granting refugee status to people who worked with the US or Afghan governments during the war in Afghanistan, if they pass security checks.
The survey, which comes weeks after the US military completed its planned withdrawal from Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover of the capital Kabul, showed that support crossed political divides.
Seventy-six percent of Democrats said they backed resettling Afghans who worked with US or Afghan government forces, compared to 74 percent of Republicans, the poll found. Overall, just 9 percent of Americans said they were opposed.
Observers say the findings demonstrate that most Americans regard giving the Afghans a refuge from potential Taliban retaliation as a duty after the nearly 20-year war.
“We owe it to them,” Andrew Davis, a 62-year-old Republican and Army veteran in Galloway, Ohio, told The Associated Press. “It’d be dangerous for them to stay there, I think, if they helped us.”
Davis said he supported accepting former Afghan employees of the US or Afghan governments and was open to doing the same for other Afghans who felt in danger from the Taliban. But he stressed the importance of security vetting for all Afghan refugees to screen out any security risks.
“If we can do that … I do think we should take them in,” he said. “I mean, they’re obviously at threat.”
On September 30, Congress passed a resolution that includes $6.3bn in additional funding for Afghan resettlement, as well as benefits for Afghan parolees who were admitted to the country under humanitarian parole.
Thousands of Afghans have arrived in the US to date. Many are living on military bases as they wait for immigration processing before being allowed to start their lives in host communities across the country.
“I want to be the representative of the Afghan people here in America” Hashima, a 23-year-old Afghan woman, told Al Jazeera last month from Fort McCoy military base in Wisconsin.
“I wanted to have the full freedom to reach my goals,” said Hashima, who is only being identified by her first name due to safety concerns.
Monday’s poll comes as President Joe Biden faces a critical moment on immigration, with rights groups and other advocates urging the US leader to take a more “humane” approach than his predecessor Donald Trump did amid waves of arrivals on the US southern border.
Last month, more than 14,000 mostly Haitian migrants gathered under a bridge in south Texas hoping to gain asylum in the US.
The Biden administration responded by detaining and expelling more than 6,000 on flights to Haiti, a country facing multiple political and humanitarian crises. Thousands of others went back to Mexico in fear of deportation.
Polls show that unlike US attitudes towards Afghan refugees, Americans’ opinions are much more divided when it comes to asylum seekers arriving at the southern border.
An ABC News/Ipsos poll published on September 29 found that 58 percent of Americans are in favour of allowing migrants arriving at the southern border to stay in the US until their asylum cases are heard.
But the poll revealed a significant partisan gap, with 83 percent of Democrats supporting allowing asylum seekers to stay in the country while their cases are pending, compared to 27 percent of Republicans.