America has long been called a nation of immigrants, a place where those who come to our shores and borders in a proper and legal fashion are welcome to build new lives and opportunities.
And with the American military withdrawal from Afghanistan now completed, thousands upon thousands of refugees are bound for our country, with many expected to complete their journeys in southcentral Kentucky.
Albert Mbanfu, director of Bowling Green’s refugee resettlement agency the International Center of Kentucky, told the Daily News’ Aaron Mudd recently that the community can expect about 200 Afghan refugees to arrive in coming months. In addition, Mbanfu said Owensboro can expect about 100 Afghan refugees.
We have a duty and obligation to welcome them.
We are told these refugees are not lawbreakers trying to force their way across the border; in fact, many have been our friends for years.
Mbanfu said all of the refugees “have helped a U.S. entity in one way or another,” whether they worked as interpreters for American troops on the ground, a nongovernmental organization or other entities with U.S. ties during the long war in Afghanistan.
It would be American dereliction of duty and, for most of the refugees, a death sentence to force them to remain in Afghanistan, where the Taliban are now in control. After all, many of these expected refugees put the lives of themselves and their families at risk by working with the U.S. against the Taliban.
And for those who still fear the refugees and possible ties to terrorist groups, Biden administration officials have gone to greater lengths in recent days to explain the vetting process, The Washington Post reported.
After flights filled with Afghans left Kabul, they said, evacuees were flown into third-party countries. At that point, they will undergo biometric and biographical background checks. If they are cleared, they can fly to the United States and must submit to health screenings, which include coronavirus testing and soon will likely also include vaccinations.
They fill out applications for work authorizations and are connected with refugee agencies that can help with resettlement. Many will continue to be housed at military bases – Fort Bliss in Texas and Fort McCoy in Wisconsin are two of the main sites – before being cleared to leave. A senior administration official wouldn’t say how long that process might take but said the expectation is not for refugees to spend months on the military bases.
“Anyone arriving in the United States will have undergone a background check,” President Joe Biden said. “And we must all work together to resettle thousands of Afghans who ultimately qualify for refugee status.”
We simply cannot turn our backs on them, and steps are being taken to welcome them here.
Mbanfu noted that superintendents of both local public school districts, Bowling Green Mayor Todd Alcott and Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon were all briefed on the expected influx of refugees before the agency publicly announced it.
And in the midst of deep partisan divides over Afghanistan, COVID-19 and nearly any other issue, polling suggests there is widespread bipartisan support for helping Afghan translators and others who aided the U.S.-led war effort. Some 81% of Americans said the United States should support those Afghans, according to a CBS News/YouGov poll published last weekend, with 90% of Democrats and 76% of Republicans backing the efforts, The Washington Post said.
“Any Afghani who was an interpreter, lashed to Americans in the fight, with hot lead flying in their direction, can live in my neighborhood,” Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., told The Associated Press last week.
They should be welcome in our neighborhood, too.