Georgia gov open to accepting Afghanistan refugees after Taliban takeover

Gov. Brian Kemp suggested Georgia is open to taking in Afghan refugees, saying in a statement that “it is vitally important to keep those who partnered with American armed forces over the last 20 years safe from harm” from the Taliban. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Caption
Gov. Brian Kemp suggested Georgia is open to taking in Afghan refugees, saying in a statement that “it is vitally important to keep those who partnered with American armed forces over the last 20 years safe from harm” from the Taliban. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Gov. Brian Kemp on Tuesday suggested that Georgia was ready to take in some Afghan refugees following the repressive Taliban regime’s swift takeover of the country, joining other bipartisan leaders who struck a similar tone after the collapse of the U.S.-backed government.

Kemp said in a statement that “it is vitally important to keep those who partnered with American armed forces over the last 20 years safe from harm” even as he criticized the military withdrawal by President Joe Biden that triggered chaos in Afghanistan.

“Joe Biden has broken his word to the nation, the Afghans and the world, but we as Americans cannot break our word to those who lent aid to us in our mission to defend freedom and bring justice to those who attacked our country on September 11,” he said.

The first-term Republican added his voice to a growing number of bipartisan governors who are receptive to taking in refugees from Afghanistan.

Republican governors in Maryland, Massachusetts, South Carolina and Utah have expressed willingness to accept refugees, as have a number of Democratic leaders. And top GOP contenders in Georgia’s 2022 contests have also called for the state to take in allies desperate for safe passage to the U.S.

The International Rescue Committee reports that more than 300,000 Afghan civilians have been linked to the American mission over the past two decades, though a far smaller number will qualify for protection in the U.S. Of those, thousands are mired in a backlog seeking special immigrant visas.

Roughly 2,000 of those who have been granted that status have recently arrived in the U.S. from the capital city of Kabul, which fell to the Taliban over the weekend.

Federal records show 38 people with Special Immigrant Visas, reserved for Afghans who helped the U.S. military or government during the war, have been settled in Georgia since November.

Though Biden is facing intense criticism for the troop pullout, there’s been broad bipartisan consensus for helping the Afghan civilians who aided the U.S. over the past two decades.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff urged Biden to “make every effort to protect and evacuate” U.S. citizens and their Afghan allies eligible for the special visas. And Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, a prominent Republican candidate challenging U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, issued a plea on Twitter to safeguard the Afghans who risked their lives to assist the U.S. military.

“We must immediately evacuate ALL Americans, allies, translators, and people whose aid to us and their own country marks them for execution by the brutal Taliban,” he said. “If it takes troops, so be it. We owe them that.”

Georgia House Republican leaders, too, issued a similar appeal on Tuesday.

“We call on the Biden Administration to do the right thing and show that America does not desert our allies,” said the joint statement from House Speaker David Ralston and other GOP legislators. “To do any less emboldens terrorists and encourages further aggression against our allies and oppressed peoples around the world.”

Kemp’s aides stress that the resettlement process is likely to take months, even years, and that his administration will insist on a thorough vetting required under federal law.

State officials are relatively powerless to stop federal resettlement of refugees, though they can seek to complicate the process.

Advocates hope Georgia leaders avoid a repeat of the backlash in the state to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in 2015. Then-Gov. Nathan Deal initially ordered state employees not to process the refugees’ food stamp benefits before reversing course.

“It’s welcome news. It’s always better to work in partnership and collaboration with the state government, and we’re thrilled that Gov. Kemp is supportive of welcoming Afghan refugees,” said Paedia Mixon, chief executive of New American Pathways, a refugee resettlement service organization.

“We’ve already seen an outpouring of support from the community,” Mixon said, “and these are folks who have worked with the American government and bring incredible skills with them.”

Staff writer Jeremy Redmon contributed to this article.


Kemp’s full statement:

“Joe Biden’s failure to protect American citizens and our allies in Afghanistan is a stain on our nation. His administration’s lack of preparation and disastrous evacuation is now putting countless lives in serious danger from the Taliban. It is vitally important to keep those who partnered with American armed forces over the last 20 years safe from harm. Joe Biden has broken his word to the nation, the Afghans, and the world, but we as Americans cannot break our word to those who lent aid to us in our mission to defend freedom and bring justice to those who attacked our country on September 11.”

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