Not content to resettle thousands of Afghan evacuees into reluctant, already-struggling municipalities, Congress wants those cities’ taxpayers, and other Americans, to foot the very hefty bill. At President Biden’s urging, Congress has requested $6.4 billion for transportation, government processing and medical screening for the Afghan nationals after their arrival.
Approximately 65,000 evacuees have landed in the U.S. Of those, some 50,000 are temporarily housed at domestic U.S. military bases, and another 18,000 are waiting their turn at overseas military stations. A nasty measles outbreak among the overseas Afghans prompted the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to ask that outgoing flights to the mainland be temporarily suspended “out of an abundance of caution.” The CDC request to pause flights came too late to spare some Virginia and Wisconsin residents; health officials in both states identified several measles cases among recent Afghan arrivals. Because of an effective vaccination program, the U.S. eliminated measles here two decades ago.
The Biden administration’s haphazard resettlement scheme invites trouble. To begin with, despite Biden’s multiple assurances and reassurances that the arriving Afghans are friends and allies, no one has any idea who most of them are or what their intentions may be. A previously convicted and deported Afghan rapist boarded one of the outbound, U.S.-destined planes, and a second felon was later found aboard an evacuation flight. After examining the State Department’s data, Dr. Nayla Rush, the Center for Immigration Studies’ senior researcher, concluded that “amid the chaos and the urgency, most who got onboard (124,000) had nothing to do with the U.S. government or any of its contractors.” Those lucky few are now referred to as “Afghans at risk,” a newly coined term that Dr. Rush translates as meaning anyone who isn’t a Taliban terrorist.
When the dust swirling about the Afghan crisis settles, many evacuees will head to one of 19 cities that the State Department has designated as suitable landing spots for Afghans, based on living costs but without input from current residents or mayors. Census Bureau Quick Facts’ published findings indicate that most of those cities have their hands full without an influx of Afghans coping with new challenges. Buffalo, one of the 19, had a median household income expressed in 2019 dollars of $37,400; St. Louis, America’s reigning murder capital and a city that urban decay symbolizes, $43,900; and Baltimore, second place behind St. Louis in the murder capital competition, $50,400.
For all their pontificating, hectoring and lecturing Americans about the compelling and immediate need to lend Afghans a helping hand, individuals in Congress who are most financially able to directly assist haven’t lifted a finger. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders called for the U.S. to open its doors to Afghans after the failed 20-year long war ended. Sanders has three homes – two in Vermont and a Washington, D.C., rowhouse. With his approximate $3 million net worth, Sanders could literally open lots of doors to welcome Afghans.
Along with dozens of senators including Sanders, California’s Dianne Feinstein promoted an easier process for Special Immigrant Visa applicants which would enable them and their families to come more expeditiously to the U.S. But Feinstein, net worth about $90 million, could do much more. Not only could she and her husband Richard Blum, an equity investment manager with a $1 billion net worth, make significant cash donations to the crying-poor resettlement agencies, but could also house several Afghan families. Feinstein and Blum just listed their $41 million Lake Tahoe property, five acres with three houses, 11 bedrooms and nine bathrooms.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Congress’ fourth richest Californian with a $30 million net worth, has plenty of space for Afghans, especially for the women and girls she’s expressed such concern for on her walled-in, multimillion dollar Napa Valley estate. Pelosi’s neighbor said rich and famous visitors know they’re getting close to the Speaker’s vast compound when they see the black SUVs circling her property “like planes gathering over O’Hare Airport.”
In Congress, talk is cheap. To convince skeptical Americans that they truly want to help newly arrived Afghans, Congress’ elected officials could make a personal show of their compassion by inviting the evacuees to temporarily share their mansions and their abundant wealth. If Congress led by example instead of empty platitudes, Americans might follow along.