Ohio Senate Candidate Who Criticized Refugees Is the Grandson of Refugees: Records
Online records recently discovered by CNN show that former Ohio state treasurer Josh Mandel, who has argued that Afghans should not be granted refuge in the United States, is the grandson of refugees himself.
Amid his third run for Senate in the Buckeye State, Mandel, 43, has spoken against allowing displaced Afghanis into the country and providing them assistance following the U.S.' withdrawal from Afghanistan. The grandson of Holocaust survivors who escaped to the U.S., Mandel's Senate campaign described it as "degrading" to liken the genocide to evacuations from Afghanistan today.
On Sept. 3, the politician compared refugees to alligators on Twitter, writing "To all those journalists out there cheering on the welcoming of Afghan 'refugees': You can keep feeding the alligators, but eventually you will be eaten as well."
Despite his anti-refugee comments, records from the International Refugee Organization reveal that Mandel's maternal grandparents, Josef and Fernanda Friedman, were actually Jewish refugees who traveled from Italy to the United States — along with 14,000 others — in December 1949 following World War II, according to CNN.
The records retrieved show Mandel's grandparents to be of the thousands who were assisted through Ohio's refugee service department.
Mandel's political campaign told CNN that the former state treasurer is well aware of his family history, calling it "degrading" to compare Holocaust refugees to the refugees entering the U.S. today.
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.
"It is complete nonsense and degrading to Holocaust victims to compare them to today's unvetted masses who are trying to invade our country from radical Islamic nations. While Nazis weren't embedded with Jews fleeing Europe, Islamic terrorists and grown men married to child brides are embedded today," spokesperson Jillian Anderson said. "These are two completely different situations and the comparison is grotesque and disrespectful to the memory of Holocaust survivors."
Representatives for Mandel did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment Wednesday.
Mandel's comments have faced backlash just as the State Department announced Monday that the Biden administration is planning to increase refugee admissions to the U.S. to 125,000 for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, Reuters reported.
According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), nearly 400,000 people have been forced to leave their homes in Afghanistan since the start of the year, joining the 2.9 million who had already been displaced across Afghanistan since the end of 2020.
According to the State Department, more than 23,000 refugees have arrived in the country since the U.S. began large-scale evacuations from Afghanistan in August before ending the war there after 20 years.
Earlier this month, a group of former presidents and first ladies — George W. Bush and Laura Bush, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and Michelle Obama — launched a national initiative called Welcome.US in order to support the refugees relocating stateside.
The initiative would provide "a single point of entry to channel the outpouring support of Americans who want to get involved by donating supplies, money, or time to frontline organizations; offering temporary housing; or sponsoring Afghan families as they start new lives in the United States," the organization said in a press release.
"Many of the refugees fleeing Afghanistan stood by America and risked everything for a chance at a better life," the Obamas said in a joint statement. "Many women and girls in particular were at risk of losing their basic human rights, and are just looking for a chance to live, work, and raise their families free from fear. Through Welcome.US, we can welcome and support our new Afghan neighbors, and reaffirm our common humanity."
Afghans who have applied for, but not yet received, a visa, and those seeking asylum in the U.S., will first head to a transit hub in Europe or Asia. There, they will undergo what the White House called "robust security processing" before moving forward to the U.S.
"That process involves biometric and biographic security screenings conducted by our intelligence, law enforcement, and counterterrorism professionals who are working quite literally around the clock to vet all of these Afghans before they're allowed into the United States," a senior administration official, speaking on background about Afghan arrival processing, said in August.
To prepare for their arrival, the U.S. has undertaken a range of safety and health precautions and will require that all those who enter the U.S. (including citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and Afghan nationals) be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival.