The Democratic-controlled House this week passed a continuing resolution that included language requested by the White House that would fund the resettlement effort of tens of thousands of Afghans to the tune of $6.3 billion, while also giving a timetable for them to be eligible for green cards.
The continuing resolution is designed to keep the government funded until Dec. 3 and until lawmakers can pass a budget for fiscal year 2022. It passed the House on a 220-211 vote. The Senate is expected to vote as early as Monday.
It includes $28.6 billion for disaster relief, an increase of the debt limit, and $6.3 billion for the Afghan evacuation process — which the administration has said expects to see 95,000 refugees brought to the U.S. over the next year. That money is designated for housing evacuees at facilities, screening, humanitarian assistance and resettlement.
“As Chairwoman of the State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, I am pleased that this bill includes $6.3 billion to support Afghan evacuees, including resettling evacuees in the United States and funding to provide humanitarian assistance for Afghan refugees in neighboring countries,” Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said in a statement.
“At least 18.4 million people in Afghanistan require humanitarian assistance due to the conflict, severe drought, and the COVID pandemic. We not only have a moral responsibility to provide safe harbor for vulnerable Afghans who fear for their lives, but to also provide humanitarian assistance to those suffering inside Afghanistan.”
But Republicans had sounded the alarm about parts of the White House proposal to allow all refugees who come in from Afghanistan and are paroled into the U.S. to apply for a green card after a year of having entered the U.S. if they have entered any time between July 2021 and the end of September 2022.
The House bill gives the Department of Homeland Security 150 days to make a decision on an asylum application submitted by an Afghan evacuee. If asylum is granted, then the asylee can apply for a green card after a year.
As for background checks and screening, it specifies only that the refugees must complete checks “to the satisfaction of the Secretary of Homeland Security.” It also opens them up to the same welfare benefits that are normally received by refugees.
The definition of “Afghan evacuee” is defined as “a person whose evacuation from Afghanistan to the United States, or a location overseas controlled by the United States, was facilitated by the United States as part of Operation Allies Refuge.”
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., had accused President Biden of trying “to award unlimited green cards to people who didn’t serve alongside our troops and who may even threaten our safety and health — all while exempting them from the normal refugee screening process.”
A Republican Study Committee memo had warned that the proposals would give any unvetted Afghan national flown into the United States between July 31, 2021 and the end of the next fiscal year lifetime welfare and a path to citizenship.”
Former senior Trump White House adviser Stephen Miller called the language in the House bill “breathtaking in scope.”
“This bill is a mass migration bill from Afghanistan,” he said in an interview with Fox News on Saturday. “It has nothing to do with any prior service to the U.S. government, nothing to do with Special Immigrant Visas — whatever your view may be of that program — it’s just a mass migration bill from Afghanistan.”
Miller went on to note that language is continuing resolutions are often renewed each year and are therefore “eternal” — meaning the language could stretch for years to come.
“Few Americans would think that a piece of legislation designed for the purpose of continuing government spending would include breathtaking immigration provisions,” he said. “The whole point of a CR is to perpetuate the status quo because the theory is that people aren’t able to reach an agreement in time on more substantive issues, so you don’t include in a continuing resolution highly controversial subject matter.”
The bill now moves to the Senate, where it faces a close vote. Miller said it was up to Republicans to put pressure on moderate Democrats to break ranks.
‘It is up to Republicans in Congress ultimately to raise and elevate those issues and I sincerely hope they do,” he said.