Despite lingering concerns among lawmakers over welcoming immigrants from Afghanistan to the United States, a significant majority of Americans back plans to provide more support for foreigners who assisted U.S. military forces during the 20-year war there, according to a new poll released by the advocacy group With Honor on Tuesday.
About 89% of individuals surveyed by the group said that the country must “keep its pledge” to provide immigration options and security assistance to Afghans who served as interpreters, advisors and other assistants to U.S. forces overseas. Roughly 80% said that must include helping them resettle in America.
“Americans want us to assist our Afghan allies, yet we remain plagued by inaction,” said Rye Barcott, founder and CEO of With Honor, in a statement. “Congress must act now to help clear the immigration backlog for highly vetted Afghan allies, many of whom fought loyally by our sides for years in America’s longest war.”
The poll comes as With Honor and the For Country Caucus — a bipartisan group of 30 veterans serving in the U.S. House — have been lobbying for action on the issue of Afghan allies left behind during the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Advocacy groups estimate as about 150,000 Afghans with pending special immigrant visas are currently stuck awaiting State Department approval. Thousands more overseas — including individuals who worked closely as interpreters and guides for U.S. forces — are unable to access the system.
Legislation to ease the process has been stalled in Congress since early 2021. In recent months, lawmakers have introduced related measures designed to expand special immigrant visa eligibility to Afghans who fought alongside U.S. armed forces and make smaller changes to the immigration process, but those efforts have been blocked by conservative lawmakers who cite potential security issues with allowing the Afghan residents to come to America.
Tuesday’s poll, conducted by Ipsos, surveyed 1,024 Americans and found only 10% of respondents felt America does not have “a duty to the Afghans we promised to protect.”
Pollsters found slightly more support for the Afghan immigrants among Democratic voters than Republicans, although conservative respondents still offered strong support for better assistance policies for Afghan allies.
Veterans groups have said that failing to help the allies who risked their lives working alongside U.S. troops endangers future American military operations overseas, since recruiting similar allies in the future will be more difficult.
Officials from With Honor hope to use the new polling figures in upcoming lobbying efforts with members of Congress. No legislation has moved through either chamber in recent weeks, as House Republicans fight internally over who should take over the Speaker of the House chair.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.