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Refugees welcome: Several states open arms to fleeing Afghans

"Our state was settled by refugees fleeing religious persecution," said Utah Gov. Spencer Cox. "We understand the pain caused by forced migration."
Image: Kabul airport
People board a Spanish airforce A400 plane as part of an evacuation plan at Kabul airport in Afghanistan, on Aug. 18, 2021.Spanish Defence Ministry / via AP

A bipartisan group of governors is offering to take in Afghans who are being forced out of their country after Taliban forces seized power over the weekend.

"Utah was settled by refugees fleeing religious persecution. We understand the pain caused by forced migration and appreciate the contributions of refugees in our communities," the state's Republican governor, Spencer Cox, tweeted on Tuesday.

Cox has written a letter to President Joe Biden offering to "assist with the resettlement of individuals and families fleeing Afghanistan, especially those who valiantly helped U.S. troops, diplomats, journalists, and other civilians over the past 20 years."

Other Republican governors have offered to step up as well, citing the troubling scenes of Afghans trying to flee the country at the Kabul airport in the wake of the Taliban taking control of the city.

“The chaotic and heartbreaking scenes out of Afghanistan over the last several days—with innocent civilians running for their lives in fear of the Taliban—is the result of a rushed and irresponsible withdrawal. Many of these Afghan citizens—our allies—bravely risked their lives to provide invaluable support for many years to our efforts as interpreters and support staff, and we have a moral obligation to help them," Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said in a video statement, where he noted his state a history of taking in refugees with special immigrant visas.

“Maryland receives more of these SIV’s than nearly any other state, and we stand ready and willing to receive more. It is the least we can do," Hogan said.

In South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster told reporters it's "our duty" to help the Afghans.

“Those people … helped protect Americans,” McMaster said, according to the local newspaper The State. “Now it is our duty to help them. We need to help them.”

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Vermont Gov. Phil Scott both said officials in their states had been in touch with the federal government about taking in refugees.

“We have the capacity. We want to work with them to get them here,” Reynolds said Tuesday during a WHO-AM radio interview. “They’ve helped us, helped Americans, and we’re more than willing to help them relocate to Iowa.”

Scott told reporters in Montpelier that the state is "ready, willing and able" to help. Republican Govs. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Brian Kemp of Georgia made similar proclamations, with Kemp coming under fire from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, for his stance.

"GA shouldn’t welcome Afghan refugees while 1,000’s of Americans are stranded," Greene tweeted, questioning how much allowing the refugees would cost taxpayers.

The issue has become political in California as well, where Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who's fighting a recall attempt, declared at a campaign stop Monday that, "We are a state of refuge."

"You don’t hear that from Republican candidates" in the state, Newsom said, adding that his administration is "already working in terms of a lot of those refugees coming in."

Other Democrats, including Govs. Tony Evers of Wisconsin and Ralph Northam of Virginia, also offered to take in more refugees.

Northam tweeted Monday that he'd met with Afghan citizens in the state and "made it clear" to the federal government that "we're ready and willing to take thousands more. Virginia will continue to serve as safe harbor."