GOP Senate Candidate Says Afghans Should Be Resettled in Middle East, Not U.S.

A Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Arizona said that Afghan refugees, including translators and others who helped the American military, should be resettled in the Middle East rather than the United States.

Jim Lamon told the Associated Press that he feels the United States should not accept any of the thousands of Afghan refugees who fled the Taliban's swift takeover following the U.S. troop withdrawal. Instead, the United States should focus resettlement efforts on putting refugees in Middle Eastern countries.

"They should go to countries that are friendly to them and us," Lamon said. "We cannot continue to be the world's refugee camp."

Lamon is taking a hardline stance against immigration as a whole, although Afghan refugees have had support from both parties.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Pakistan Afghan Refugees
GOP Senate candidate Jim Lamon of Arizona said the U.S. should not accept Afghan refugees, and instead resettle them in other Middle Eastern countries. Above, Afghan people walk inside a fenced corridor as they enter Pakistan at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing point in Chaman on August 25, 2021. AFP via Getty Images

Lamon is running in a crowded Republican primary to take on Democratic Senator Mark Kelly in one of the most closely watched 2022 Senate races.

His stance on refugees comes as GOP candidates across the country wrestle with how to balance the base's skepticism of immigration with broad public support for providing refuge to Afghans who risked their lives assisting the United States.

While many Republicans have questioned whether refugees are sufficiently vetted or suggested the U.S. is accepting too many Afghans, few have said that even those who most closely assisted U.S. troops should be excluded.

A handful of former President Donald Trump's administration officials are working to turn Republicans against Afghan refugees, looking to make the collapse of Afghanistan another opportunity to push a hardline immigration agenda. But they support letting Afghans who obtain a Special Immigrant Visa settle in the United States.

Lamon is aggressively courting Trump's endorsement, going so far as to air a campaign ad in Bedminster, New Jersey, while the former president was visiting his golf course there.

His position puts him at odds with others in the GOP who say accepting refugees is consistent with Christian teachings.

Governor Doug Ducey and House Speaker Rusty Bowers, both Republicans, issued a joint statement last month welcoming Arizona's "fair share" of refugees and promising that the state's refugee resettlement office would help them settle in.

"They helped our military members in their country, and now we stand ready to help them in ours," Ducey and Bowers said.

Lamon said the U.S. has spent billions of dollars in the Middle East, including Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, and those countries "need to have brought them in and helped us in that respect."

"What I would have proposed is that those who helped us, we help them move into neighboring countries," Lamon said.

Lamon, the founder of a solar energy firm making his first run for political office, spoke after accepting endorsements from unions representing thousands of U.S. Border Patrol agents and Arizona police officers, as well as former Trump administration immigration officials.

Jim Lamon
Arizona businessman Jim Lamon said the United States should not accept Afghan refugees, including translators and others who helped the American military during the 20-year war. Lamon, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, speaks to supporters as he accepts an endorsement from law enforcement groups in Phoenix on September 15, 2021. Jonathan J. Cooper/AP Photo