For Congressional Evaluation on Support for at-risk Afghans
In August of 2021, the United States officially withdrew from Afghanistan as the Taliban took over the country. Tens of thousands of at-risk Afghans and Afghan allies who aided the US mission awaited evacuation. In FY 2022, more than 76,000 were evacuated to the United States using humanitarian parole, a temporary form of protection typically only granted for 1 or 2 years to provide safety for people under threat. Given the temporary nature of parole, tens of thousands of the relocated Afghan men, women, and children resettled in the U.S. have been navigating complex legal issues to find lasting protection.
Voice for Refuge completed a comprehensive research process to score and rank every acting Senator and Representative, evaluating actions prior to August 2021 as well as public statements and actions taken in the subsequent months through June 2022. These scores and ranks evaluate each Member on their actions relative to actions taken by other colleagues. Members were scored on a 20 through -15 scale and assigned one of the five potential rankings of Champion, Supporter, Ambivalent, Anti-Resettlement, or Extremely Anti-Resettlement based on their score.
Our hope is that these scores and ranks will serve first, to show elected officials how they measure up on their support for vulnerable and displaced Afghans and offer an opportunity for our national leaders to increase their involvement and raise their score. And second, to educate constituents who care about at-risk Afghans and our Afghan allies, ensuring that they are aware of how their U.S. Senators and Representatives actually took action, outside of the noise of the media.
Finally, it is our hope that Afghans already relocated to the United States can find long term safety, and that those who were left behind can rejoin their families and communities safely in the United States. While these scores are a reflection of each representatives’ past actions, they will be considered flexible, and when Members step up to lead efforts to protect Afghans, their scores and ranks will be re-evaluated to reflect their actions.
Voice for Refuge Action Fund assessed each Representative and Senator’s support and action on behalf of at-risk Afghans and Afghan allies before, during, and after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021.
The maximum score an individual could earn is 20 and the minimum score an individual could earn is -15. Individuals scoring between 10 to 20 earned the rank of Champion of Relocation & Resettlement of Afghans. Individuals scoring between 4 to 9.99 earned the rank of Supporter of Relocation & Resettlement of Afghans. Individuals scoring between 0 to 3.99 earned the rank of Ambivalent of Relocation & Resettlement of Afghans. Individuals scoring between -2.99 to -0.01 earned the rank Anti-Relocation & Resettlement of Afghans. Individuals scoring between -15 to -3 earned the rank “Extremely Anti-Relocation & Resettlement of Afghans”.
The scores were generated through the consideration of two key scoring factors. 1) All congressional actions taken by an individual Member; including signing on to oversight letters, cosponsoring resolutions and/or bills, or giving floor speeches; and 2) relevant public statements on Facebook, Twitter, and to the Press. Individuals could score a maximum of 14/20 on the congressional action portion and a maximum of 6/20 on the public statement portion, generating our maximum score of 20.
Negative scores were generated when members took action or made statements that were misleading, counter productive, or actively harmful towards Afghans, at-risk individuals, and Afghan allies. Individuals did not receive negative scores for failing to take action, but only when action was taken and it was detrimental to evacuation and relocation efforts. Individuals taking negative action could score a minimum of -9/20 on the congressional action portion of the evaluation and a minimum of -6/20 on the public statement portion, generating our minimum score of -15/20.
Voice for Refuge Action fund began compiling a list of all congressional actions in February of 2022. Our team searched publicly available data on government websites with broad search parameters to capture all oversight letters, resolutions, bills, public hearings, and floor speeches related to “Afghan,” “Afghanistan,” “evacuation,” and “withdrawal” from April 2021 through February 2022. A reassessment of materials was completed in June of 2022 to capture all new congressional actions since February of 2022. Any additional actions taken by individual U.S. Representatives or Senators since July 1, 2022 had not been used to generate the first publication of the scores and rankings. (Therefore, the initial scores exclude the bipartisan Afghan Adjustment Act introduced in both the House and the Senate in early August of 2022.)
Over 50 oversight letters, resolutions, and bills were considered in the final evaluation, 28 items limited to the House and 22 items limited to the Senate. Floor speeches and public hearings were included case-by-case for the individual U.S. Representatives and Senators they related to.
Voice for Refuge Action Fund compiled relevant Facebook posts, Twitter posts, and press releases from each individual between the dates of April 2021 to February 2022, with priority toward all statements made in the month of August 2021.
Each statement was scored based on a 2 through -2 scale. A statement earned a 2 when it both expressed solidarity, sorrow, or urgency and a report of taking action. A statement earned a 1 when it only expressed solidarity, sorrow, or urgency. A statement earned a 0 when it was simply a restatement of facts and neither expressed solidarity, sorrow, or urgency nor an intent for action. A statement earned a -1 when it expressed racist beliefs or ideologies or spread misinformation about the evacuation and/or Afghans. A statement earned a -2 when it included an intent for, or celebrated an action that was motivated by racist beliefs or ideologies, misinformation, or harmful rhetoric.
Each Member was assessed based on up to five publicly available Facebook posts, up to five publicly available twitter posts, and up to five publicly available press releases or referenced appearances. In the cases of members having more than five statements available for evaluation on any given platform, priority was given to statements made within the month of August 2021 and in chronological order after that.
Over 5,000 public statements were evaluated for the House of Representatives. Over 1,200 public statements were evaluated for the Senate.
Scorecard Re-Evaluation in December of 2022
Voice for Refuge Action Fund published our scorecards in August 2022. In the intervening months, several Representatives and Senators have taken action to introduce a bipartisan, bicameral Afghan Adjustment Act. We have therefore re-evaluated the scores for all those involved and reissued them to thank these Members of Congress for their work. Each Member received a +1 if they were an original co-sponsor, a +0.5 if they joined the House dear colleague letter that circulated. In total, over 40 Representatives and 7 Senators had their scores increased.
For United States House of Reps. and Senate:
Voice for Refuge Action Fund seeks to hold policy makers accountable to supporting policies that improve the lives of refugees and access to humanitarian protection. For our first scorecard, we have examined the records of U.S. Senators and Members of the House of Representatives, taking into account if they have co-sponsored pro-refugee or anti-refugee legislation, if they have signed onto pro-refugee letters, and the statements they have made about refugees on their websites and social media platforms. Based on that information, we have ranked each Senator and Representative as either a Pro-Refugee Leader, Pro-Refugee, Uncommitted, Anti-Refugee, or an Anti-Refugee Extremist. A comprehensive list of scores can be downloaded here. Our next scorecards will focus on Governors and select state legislatures.
Especially as these are our first scorecards, we encourage refugees and community supporters of refugees to recommend additional legislation, letters, or demonstrations of support that we should consider including in our analysis. Please email such suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pro-refugee legislation factored into our analysis include:
- S.1088 / H.R.2146, The Guaranteed Refugee Admission Ceiling Enhancement (GRACE) Act, which would set a minimum annual refugee resettlement goal of 95,000, in keeping with the historic average.
- S.2936 / H.R.5210, The Refugee Protection Act, which would drastically reform and improve the U.S. refugee resettlement program and the U.S. asylum system and increase access to humanitarian protection.
- S.1123 / H.R.2214, The National Origin-Based Antidiscrimination for Nonimmigrants (NO BAN) Act, which would terminate the Trump administration’s refugee, Muslim, and asylum bans and prevent such discriminatory measures in the future.
- S.3470 / H.R.4928, The New Deal for New Americans Act, which would establish programs that welcome immigrants and make English language learning, workforce development, and U.S. citizenship more accessible.
- S.3645 / H.R.6537, The FIRST Act, which would reduce the use of inhumane detention facilities for asylum seekers and other immigrants.
- H.R. 2347, The Border and Refugee Assistance Act, which would improve access to asylum and protection for refugees fleeing domestic violence and gangs, as well as refugees from Central America.
- S.Res.254 / H.Res.444, A resolution commemorating June 20th as “World Refugee Day,” which recognizes the contributions of refugees and urges the U.S. Government to increase refugee resettlement.
- S.Res.32, A resolution recognizing January 27, 2019, as the anniversary of the first refugee and Muslim ban, and urging the President to demonstrate true leadership on refugee resettlement.
- S.Res.484, A resolution recognizing January 27, 2020, as the anniversary of the first refugee and Muslim ban, calling on Congress to defund the Migrant Protection Protocols, and urging the President to restore refugee resettlement to historic norms.
- S.Res.545 / H.Res.902, A resolution commemorating March 17, 2020, as the 40th anniversary of the Refugee Act of 1980, including the amendments made by that Act, at a time when the need for bipartisan support of the refugee resettlement program of the United States is critical to the survival of the program.
Anti-refugee legislation factored into our analysis include:
- S.1103 / H.R. 2278, The “Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act,” which would cap resettlement at 50,000 refugee per year, end the Diversity Visa program, and drastically reduce access to family reunification.
- S.1494, The “Secure and Protect Act,” which would remove protections for victims of human trafficking, asylum seekers, and unaccompanied children, drastically scaling back refugee protection.
- H.R.3360, The “Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act,” which would make it more difficult for asylum seekers to access and maintain protection, and would deport people back into harm’s way.
There have not been votes on any of these bills, and thus we have assessed whether or not a Senator or Representative has co-sponsored these bills to determine their support.
Letters factored into our analysis include:
- A bipartisan Senate letter to the Secretary of State expressing opposition to the 30,000 refugee cap in Fiscal Year 2019, at the time an historic low, given the average annual goal of 95,000 refugees.
- A Senate letter urging President Trump to increase the refugee admissions goal for Fiscal Year 2020.
- A bipartisan Senate letter to the Secretaries of the Department of State, Department of Health and Human Services, and Department of Homeland Security, expressing opposition to proposals that would have eliminated refugee resettlement in FY 2020.
- A bipartisan House letter expressing opposition to reported proposals that would have eliminated refugee resettlement in FY2020.
- A House Democrats letter expressing opposition to reduce refugee resettlement to 18,000 in FY 2020, an historic low.
- A Senate letter to the Secretaries of the Department of State and Department of Homeland Security requesting an oversight briefing on the low refugee admissions cap, changes in resettlement policy, and Executive Order that would have allowed states and localities to ban refugees (now enjoined).
- A bipartisan Senate letter to the Secretaries of the Department of State and Department of Homeland Security, urging refugee resettlement to resume and asking oversight questions to enquire about the refugee resettlement program.
- A House Republicans letter urging the Trump Administration to uphold our nation’s longstanding commitment to assisting refugees.
In addition, the House scorecards reflect membership in the Bipartisan Congressional Refugee Caucus.
For our governor scorecard, we have examined the records of the governors of 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, taking into account if they have signed or vetoed pro-refugee or anti-refugee legislation, if they gave their consent to host refugees after the Trump administration’s 2019 executive order requiring governors to ‘opt in’ to receiving refugees, if they have signed onto pro- or anti-refugee letters or otherwise made public declarations of support or opposition to refugees, and the statements they have made about refugees on their websites and social media platforms. Based on that information, we have ranked each governor as either a Pro-Refugee Leader, Pro-Refugee, Uncommitted, or an Anti-Refugee Extremist.
Governors who opted into receiving refugees in 2019 were assigned 4 points, while those who opted out were assigned -4 points and those who did not respond were assigned 0 points. Each demonstration of support for refugees was assigned 1 point, while each demonstration of opposition was assigned -1 point. A maximum of six actions per governor were considered. Four social media posts featuring the word ‘refugee’ were scored from the governor’s official Twitter, Facebook, and website. Each post was assigned a score of .25 (pro-refugee), 0 (neutral), or -.25 (anti-refugee) for a total between -3 and 3. Finally, ‘behind the scenes’ scores between 0 and 2 were assigned based on governors’ less visible work on refugee-related issues.
Many thanks to Kate Fin, our Refugee Scorecard Developer and Leader, who conceptualized and led the implementation of these scorecards.