California and Texas are expected to soon receive the largest numbers of Afghan refugees who were evacuated from Afghanistan as part of Operation Allies Rescue, CBS News reports. California is set to welcome 5,225 refugees (the state has one of the largest Afghan communities in the nation), while Texas will welcome nearly 4,500 refugees.
The report said this represents “part of the first phase of a massive resettlement operation that is slated to place nearly 37,000 refugees from Afghanistan in U.S. communities.” Overall, more than 53,000 Afghan allies and families are being temporarily sheltered in a number of military bases across the U.S. at the moment.
“Washington state and Arizona are each slated to receive more than 1,600 evacuees,” CBS News reported. Eight states including Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, New York, and Virginia are set to welcome at least 1,000 refugees. Seven states will welcome fewer than 100 refugees. “Alabama and Mississippi are expected to receive just 10 evacuees. Hawaii, Wyoming, West Virginia and South Dakota are not currently slated to resettle any evacuees from Afghanistan.”
HuffPo reported on Sept. 9 that two of those states, Wyoming and South Dakota, were the lone two on record at the time as refusing to accept any Afghan refugees. Not that it’s up to the states to make that decision anyway (though the previous administration tried to allow that). It’s unclear why there are no refugees being welcomed in the other listed states, but it certainly could be due to resettlement agency bandwith.
Joining Wyoming and South Dakota in vocally opposing refugees was Montana’s lone House member, Republican Matt Rosendale, who threw a fit over the relatively small number of families set to go to the state. “Today I learned that 75 refugees from Afghanistan will be arriving in Montana,” he tweeted, to a very strong public backlash. “I strongly oppose the resettlement of these Afghan nationals in Montana.”
“This former refugee cannot wait to welcome them to Montana,” KHQ reports that Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins responded. He’s originally from Liberia. “Hopefully they’ll get involved in our communities and enrich our lives with their experiences and culture. Who knows, maybe one day some of them will even run for office! The people of Helena made it easy they made it easy by welcoming me,” the report said Collins continued. “That was the biggest hurdle because I didn’t know how people would receive me, I’m coming from a chaotic situation, a war situation, but when I arrived I saw people arms open to me, that was very humbling.”
The mayor’s words mirror the sentiments of most Americans who, by an overwhelming majority of 81%, support welcoming Afghan refugees who aided U.S. military. Refugee resettlement organizations and other volunteer services have in fact said they’ve been “inundated with calls from ordinary Americans seeking to assist the waves of Afghan citizens who have begun arriving in the United States,” The Washington Post reported last month. In fact, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service President Krish O’Mara Vignarajah said late last month that 40,000 people have signed up at the organization’s website to volunteer in efforts in the past two weeks. “By comparison, the group gets about a dozen offers during a typical week,” The Wall Street Journal reported.
But financial support is also desperately needed, CBS News continued. Because most evacuees had to enter the U.S. through a process called humanitarian parole, they’re not immediately eligible for the help usually available to refugees. “Currently, each Afghan evacuee is slated to receive $1,225 to help with rent, furniture and food and provide a small amount of pocket money,” the report said. “Biden has called on Congress to take action to ensure that the recent arrivals have access to the same benefits as refugees.” Senators have also asked the Biden administration to reallocate unused funds to aid Afghan refugees, and not an “already bloated Department of Defense budget.”