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Arkansas To Receive 98 Afghan Refugees In Near Future, Governor Says

Afghanistan
NPR News

The White House announced Thursday plans to send Afghanistan refugees to the states, with Arkansas set to receive 98 Afghans fleeing the country now ruled again by the Taliban. Of those, 49 are expected to arrive in Northwest Arkansas and 49 in central Arkansas.

“I received notification from the White House that Arkansas has been allotted up to 98 Afghan refugee cases. While we are waiting on specific information, I have been briefed on the heightened security vetting and comprehensive health screenings, intake, and vaccinations that are being implemented by our federal partners,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement.

The state government is not directly involved in the resettlement process, Hutchinson said, and that the White House told him the refugees would be vetted carefully before being sent to the states for resettlement. He said refugees will arrive in “the near future” and resettlement will be supported by “faith-based organizations and local sponsors so refugees will successfully integrate to life in Arkansas.”

“These refugees have supported the United States over the past 20 years. We want to help relocate these allies for their protection and the protection of their families from the sure peril they will face if they remain in Afghanistan,” the governor noted.

The administration of President Joe Biden has said around 64,000 Afghan refugees will be in the U.S. by the end of September, with another estimated 30,000 expected in the following 12 months. A budget request sent to Congress by the Biden Administration includes $1.7 billion to help states, through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, support refugee resettlement. The support will include medical coverage, clothing, housing, and English lessons.

Under the plan announced Thursday, California is set to receive the most refugees with an allotment of 5,255, and Texas is second with 4,481. Neighboring Oklahoma and Missouri are allowed 1,800 and 1,200 refugees, respectively.

Northwest Arkansas-based Canopy will work with the federal government to help with the 49 refugees expected in the area. Since 2016, Canopy has worked to resettle almost 200 refugees in the area, enrolled more than 50 children in school, taught more than 400 hours of cultural orientation, and worked with more than 12 area employers, according to the nonprofit’s website.

The incoming Afghan refugees will not be the first to settle in Arkansas. Analysis by U.S. News shows that Arkansas has received 19 Afghan refugees since 2001, with 18 of those receiving special immigration visas (SIV). Such visas are primarily given to Afghanis who have helped U.S. forces and programs in the country. The U.S. has issued 34,500 SIVs since December 2014.