While Republican politicians use the crisis unfolding in Afghanistan to again fearmonger about refugees, Representative Ilhan Omar — the only former refugee in Congress — has a question for them: What are you so afraid of, being outshined?
On Tuesday, Omar joined The ReidOut With Joy Reid to comment on Republican backlash to the prospect of America welcoming refugees from Afghanistan. Thousands are fleeing the country amid the rapid takeover by the Taliban that has coincided with the U.S. withdrawal. While images of Afghans falling from the sky, chasing planes, and cramming into aircraft carriers flooded social media, demonstrating the desperation of a people under threat, Republican politicians and right-wing commentators chose to capitalize on the moment.
“The Biden regime owes us answers ASAP about how they will be vetting the refugee applicants from Afghanistan,” tweeted Colorado congresswoman Lauren Boebert, claiming Afghanistan is “a hotbed of terrorism.” Illinois congressman Tom Tiffany claimed Afghanistan “is a dangerous country that is home to many dangerous people,” suggesting that America send refugees first to other countries to be vetted before being allowed to enter the U.S.
Omar herself spent years in a refugee camp in Kenya after her family fled Somalia. She arrived in the United States as a middle schooler, and went on to become the first Black Muslim elected to Congress.
“I know what it’s like to be a child in a family scrambling for safety in a war-torn country. I know the rigorous process you go through to get vetted as a refugee. We are the most vetted people who come to the United States,” Omar said on The ReidOut. “The process is long, and it doesn’t just end when you arrive on the shores.”
Reid asked Omar if she’d like to respond specifically to comments from Turning Points USA founder Charlie Kirk, who on Monday claimed that Democrats want “a couple hundred thousand more Ilhan Omars to come into America to change the body politic permanently” — a dog whistle to replacement theory, a racist, sexist ideology that holds that white Americans will be “replaced” by growing minority populations. Fox host Tucker Carlson, who has been accused of invoking this theory, also appeared to reference it this week when speaking about Afghan refugees, saying, “First we invade, and then we’re invaded.”
Omar noted these anxieties come from a place of insecurity and fear. “I know what some of these people are worried about, is that they’re worried that refugees like myself, when they come to this country, will outshine them,” said the congresswoman. “But that is just their own failure and their inability to find success in the ways in which refugees have found success in this country.”
After checking Kirk on his comments and suggesting he check a globe — Somalia and Afghanistan are not the same! — Omar continued, “That man and others can cry about it, but the reality is, this is a country that welcomes refugees, and they don’t just welcome refugees. They sent one to Congress.”
Want more from Teen Vogue? Check this out: Afghanistan’s Crisis Is the Result of Decades of Foreign Intervention
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