• Lawmakers from both parties are calling on the US to do more to assist Afghans at risk amid the country’s fall.
  • Several politicians urged the Biden administration to evacuate US allies and open the door to refugees.
  • “Just put them on f—ing planes and get them out of there,” Rep. Ruben Gallego said.

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Several US lawmakers are putting pressure on the federal government to amp up aid for vulnerable Afghans after the Taliban took over the country on Sunday following the withdrawal of US forces and the collapse of the US-backed Afghan government.

Members from both sides of the aisle are calling on the Biden administration to extend refuge to the millions of Afghan people left behind as the capital city, Kabul, fell. Many who remain, in particular, women, religious minorities, and those who aided the US, are likely at risk of violence or persecution under the new Taliban regime.

Harrowing images and video from the Kabul airport showed people trying to cling to a jet as it taxied down the runway in a desperate attempt to flee the country on Monday. There have also been reports of deaths among Afghan people who attempted to stowaway on departing planes and fell. 

Heartbreaking photos and reports from the ground have prompted multiple members of Congress to issue statements, and President Joe Biden announced late Monday evening that the government would allocate $500 million to help Afghans who are fleeing the country relocate. 

House GOP Freshman

Thirty-six Republican freshman in a letter to President Joe Biden, urged the administration to prioritize the evacuation of “American citizens” and “loyal Afghan citizens who served alongside US forces.”

“Leaving Afghan allies behind would almost certainly seal their fate and would have harmful and lasting repercussions for our nation that cannot be overlooked,” the caucus, led by Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan and Stephanie Bice of Oklahoma, wrote. 

—Andrew Solender (@AndrewSolender) August 16, 2021

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont addressed the conflict on Sunday, emphasizing that “foreign policy matters.”

“At this moment, we must do everything we can to evacuate our allies and open our doors to refugees,” he tweeted. 

—Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) August 15, 2021

Rep. Ilhan Omar

The Minnesota representative called for an “international coalition to evacuate every Afghan citizen who is fleeing for their lives.”

“This is an American responsibility, and it is also a NATO responsibility, and it is also a human responsibility,” she said. “We must hold the airport in Kabul and lead a multinational airlift operation.”

Omar, who is the first Somali American in Congress, drew upon her own experiences as a child “scrambling for safety in a war-torn country,” and said the events have been “personally painful” for her.

—Andrew Solender (@AndrewSolender) August 16, 2021

Rep. Aleandriz Ocasio-Cortez

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez of New York stressed America’s “moral obligation” to the Afghan people in a Twitter statement on Monday. 

“The US role in this crisis is indisputable,” she said. “We must waste no time or expense in helping refugees safely & swiftly leave Afghanistan.”

—Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) August 16, 2021

Rep. Ruben Gallego

The Arizona Democrat, who is also a veteran, made an impassioned plea to evacuate Afghans who assisted the US.

“There are tons of cruise ships that are empty. There are bases everywhere around the world and there is this whole massive country that is used to assimilating immigrants (and Canada),” he tweeted.

“Just put them on f—ing planes and get them out of there,” he added.

Over the weekend, Gallego made a similar argument, emphasizing the importance of helping refugees before worrying about the required paperwork involved. 

—Ruben Gallego (@RubenGallego) August 16, 2021

Sen. Tim Kaine

Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the situation in Afghanistan “devastating.”

“We must do everything we can to prioritize the evacuation of US personnel, Afghan partners, journalists, women leaders, activists, human rights defenders, and others,” he said. 

Kaine highlighted his support of the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program.

—John Haltiwanger (@jchaltiwanger) August 16, 2021

Experts estimate that 18,000 Afghans and 53,000 of their family members have applied and are waiting for visas through the program, which grants the documents to those who helped US military operations. But those applications are in limbo amid a US government delay in processing. 

Sen. Mark R. Warner

The senator from Virginia, who also serves as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, issued a sharp statement urging the US to prioritize evacuating both American citizens and Afghans “at greatest risk.”

“The world must know that the US stands by her friends in times of need, and this is one of those times.”

—Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) August 16, 2021

Sen. Mark Kelly

The Arizona senator, who is also a combat veteran and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, offered direct assistance to people stuck in Afghanistan.

“My office is all-hands-on-deck to assist Americans and Afghan partners who are trying to get out,” Kelly tweeted. 

—Andrew Solender (@AndrewSolender) August 16, 2021

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