The Jolt: The Georgia holdouts on the GOP’s Afghan refugee policy

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

We might be on the verge of a fascinating trend in Georgia Republican politics.

While some far-right conservatives are taking a nativist tone toward the Afghans who risked life and limb to support the U.S. military over the last two decades, state GOP leaders are sounding surprisingly receptive to accepting refugees.

As we reported yesterday, Gov. Brian Kemp and top state Republicans in the Legislature said President Joe Biden should safeguard the Afghan allies who face brutal repression by the Taliban regime -- and suggested they were open to accepting refugees in Georgia.

(Let us remind you that state officials are relatively powerless to stop federal resettlement of refugees, though they can seek to complicate the process by denying certain government services.)

Now support for Afghan refugees is becoming a part of the GOP campaign trail rhetoric.

David Belle Isle, a candidate for secretary of state, this morning slammed his rival U.S. Rep. Jody Hice for opposing a measure that would have made it easier for Afghan citizens who helped the war effort receive special U.S. visas.

Belle Isle called Hice’s vote a “dereliction of duty.”

“These men and women worked alongside our troops in a combat zone and risked their lives and their families’ lives to help the U.S. military effort,” said Belle Isle.

“The withdrawal of our forces is a virtual death sentence for those people whose only crime was helping Americans. And Jody Hice tried to impose that sentence.”

The measure he’s mentioning was approved in the House by a 407-16 margin in July, with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene joining Hice among the handful in the “no” column. The Senate hasn’t taken action.

Hice was among the many Republicans critical of the process and timing of Biden’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, a pullout that paved the way for the Taliban’s rapid takeover of the country.

In a statement on Monday, the Republican expressed sympathy for the Afghan nationals, saying Biden’s “utter incompetence” has doomed millions of them to a despotic regime.

So how does Hice reconcile his concern for the Afghan people with his opposition to a measure that would have eased the way for more U.S. allies stranded in Afghanistan to reach safety?

In a statement Tuesday, he said he worried the legislation could worsen a special immigrant visa process that’s facing backlogs because it expands the program without “addressing any of the underlying problems.”

“The Biden Administration’s total incompetence has endangered the lives of every Afghan who has aided American forces over the last twenty years,” the statement read, “and the reality of the situation is that we need to get all American citizens and our allies out of Afghanistan NOW.”


The crisis in Afghanistan may be opening the door on refugee policy among some Republicans, but it’s not changing anything when it comes to immigration generally.

In interviews Tuesday about Afghanistan, Latham Saddler and Gary Black, two of U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock’s GOP challengers in 2022, pointed to the U.S.- Mexico border as a newly heightened national security risk as the Taliban returns to power there.

Saddler called the Biden administration’s handling of Afghanistan and the Southern border “two major policy blunders that put American lives at risk.”

“We now have a porous and insecure border and, and now, all of the sudden we have an Afghanistan that’s being run by terrorists,” he said.

Black, the state Agriculture Commissioner, said the United States needs to return to a “Trump border policy.”

“We have loosed criminals because of this debacle in Afghanistan and the very notion that they’re not going to return to our shores and come through the weakest link in the chain would be naive at best,” he said.

In an address to the nation Monday, Biden defended his administration’s move to bring the last of America’s assets out of the country.

This all follows a conditional peace agreement between the Trump administration and the Taliban in 2020 to withdraw all U.S. forces there.


With the Senate in recess, keep an eye out for Georgia’s two U.S. senators, who have separate state-wide tours planned to highlight the child tax credit, infrastructure plans, and other Democratic priorities.

Sen. Raphael Warnock will visit Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta and Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Kings Bay. He’ll also meet Latino leaders in Chamblee, farmers in Albany, students in Columbus, along with other events and meetings across the state.

We’ll have details of Ossoff’s travels later in the week.


The Census numbers have lots of news about population changes in Georgia, including this one-- the state has a new second-largest city.

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reports the mayor of Columbus celebrated his city leap-frogging over Augusta, which used to have second-city status:

“Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson told the Ledger-Enquirer Thursday that both cities have claimed to be the state’s number two city in the past.

“We do say (it) — and Augusta has said it for a while, too,” he said. “It is nice to have that slight edge so we can continue to say that.”

According to the Census Bureau, Columbus-Muscogee County grew by 9% over the last 10 years.


The leading candidates for Atlanta mayor formally entered the race on Tuesday by submitting qualifying paperwork to the elections office. Here is how the AJC’s Wilborn Nobles and J.D. Capelouto described the scene:

Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore and former mayor Kasim Reed — who have a contentious past and are now among the frontrunners in the mayor’s race — visited Atlanta City Hall at the same time Tuesday morning.

The simultaneous visits created a scene among their supporters, who stood in the rain waving signs and chanting for their candidates as their voices competed with the morning bell of the nearby Trinity United Methodist Church.

Reed’s supporters even yelled over Moore during her attempt to address the press after she qualified.


The mayor of Savannah is sounding the alarm over the dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases in the area, our news partners at the Savannah Morning News report.

As the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Savannah-area hospitals hits record highs and cases continue to surge, the City of Savannah could implement more restrictions, Mayor Van Johnson said Monday.

“COVID is growing out of control in our city and if things don't change quickly, increased measures will be necessary to protect public health, safety and welfare," said Johnson, who reinstated a mask policy last month.

Johnson said reinstating the mask mandate in July was done as a precautionary measure to emphasize the importance of the situation and to encourage vaccinations, but he continues to see packed indoor locations and tour vehicles and very few people wearing masks.

- Savannah Morning News


A pair of powerful left-leaning groups -- End Citizens United and Let America Vote -- will spend $250,000 on ads praising Democratic senators, including Georgia’s Raphael Warnock, for supporting a federal voting expansion.

Senate Republicans recently used the filibuster to block progress of a sweeping measure that sought to tighten campaign finance rules and add new transparency requirements.

The “Put a Price” ad praising Warnock will run on social media and streaming video.


POSTED: One of your Insiders has the latest on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, a proposal to restore federal oversight of changes to election laws in states with a history of violations.

U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, the congresswoman from Selma, Ala., unveiled the newest version of the legislation at Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge Tuesday.

The bill includes a new formula to determine which states would be subject to preclearance, meaning the Justice Department would need to sign off on changes to voting or election laws.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is planning to bring the bill to the floor for a vote when members return next week. But it faces dimmer prospects in the Senate, where Republicans have threatened to use the filibuster to block its passage.

Georgia’s U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock will be among those leading the effort to pass it through the Senate once it passes the House.


As we continue to pore over the new data from the Census Bureau, Charlie Hayslett over at Trouble in God’s Country has this fascinating insight from state data--118 of Georgia’s 159 counties recorded more deaths than births in 2020.

Hayslett specializes in dissecting the data that illustrates the growing divide between Georgia’s prosperous Metro Atlanta region and much of the rest of the state, which is seeing both declining populations and prospects.


The anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List is taking aim at three Georgia Democrats as part of a national campaign.

The group is targeting U.S. Reps. Carolyn Bourdeaux and Lucy McBath, as well as U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, for opposing federal efforts to limit abortions.

It’s an expansion of the group’s six-figure campaign that launched in North Carolina earlier this week and continues in Arizona.


In #gapol personnel news, a number of Democrats with Georgia ties have landed Biden administration roles.

  • Antwaun Griffin is the new chief of staff to the Small Business Administration. Griffin was the Georgia state director for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign.
  • Scott Harriford, the former Georgia political director for Biden’s 2020 bid, is now a White House liaison.
  • Terrence Clark, a top deputy to Raphael Warnock during his Senate run, took a director position in the federal Office of Communications and Public Liaison.


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