Iowa working on program to take refugees from Afghanistan

Photo: U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, left, and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds work the grill at the Iowa Pork Producers booth at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. Afterwards they met with reporters to discuss Iowa plans for taking refugees from Afghanistan. (AP Photo/David Pitt)

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Iowa would welcome refugees from Afghanistan who want to resettle in Iowa saying their situation is much different from the immigrants coming across the U.S.-Mexico border Reynolds refused to accept in April.

Reynolds and U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst discussed plans to take refugees while attending the Iowa State Fair on Wednesday.

“We’re working with the state department right now we’re offering our opportunity to settle here in Iowa,” Ernst said.

Ernst said she is working with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat, to push the U.S. Department of State to allow as many people as possible to qualify for the Special Immigrant Visa Program. It is designed to get people who worked with U.S. military as interpreters or translators in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The U.S. Bureau of Refugee Services has said Iowa could take as many as 2,000 refugees a year and Reynolds didn’t disagree with that number.

“We’ll work with them to determine what that looks like and just make sure we have a process in place and we have families and homes for them to go,” she said. “We want to be a partner,  we want them here and we want them to know that and we’ll work through those process whatever they may be but definitely we can handle that.”

In April Reynolds said she rejected a federal request to accept migrant children from the U.S.-Mexico border into the state, saying the need to find homes for them “is the president’s problem.”

She blamed President Joe Biden for opening the border and said he needs to stop the influx, adding that her priority is the health and safety of Iowans and that the state doesn’t have facilities to house migrant children for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

On Wednesday she said the refugee resettlement program is different because those coming from Afghanistan will have special visas and properly documented.

“They are vetted and they come into the state that way, It’s completely different than what’s happening at the southern border, completely different,” Reynolds said.

She said Iowa has taken 94 refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan since 2007.

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