Utah’s Spencer Cox and 8 other US governors want to open their states to resettle Afghan refugees

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox speaks during a news conference before receiving his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Spanish Fork, Utah.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox speaks during a news conference Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Spanish Fork, Utah.
  • Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, is enthusiastic about welcoming Afghan refugees.
  • "Our state was settled by refugees fleeing religious persecution," Cox said about Utah's history as a haven for Mormons.
  • So far, 8 other governors from both parties have publicly spoken out in favor of taking refugees.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Gov. Spencer Cox of Utah, a Republican, is enthusiastically opening up his state to refugees fleeing Afghanistan, citing the state's origins as a safe haven for Mormons.

Other governors from both parties are steadily following suit in offering up their assistance with resettling the thousands of Afghans desperately seeking to flee the Taliban and start new lives in the US.

Utah, Cox wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has "a long history of welcoming refugees from around the world" and is "eager to continue that practice" with refugees from Afghanistan.

"Utah's history guides our approach to refugees," Cox said. "Our state was settled by refugees fleeing religious persecution 170 years ago. Their descendants have a deep understanding of the danger and pain caused by forced migration and appreciate the wonderful contributions of refugees in our communities."

Here are the US governors who have publicly spoken on accepting refugees:

  • Gov. Spencer Cox (R-Utah).
  • Gov. Charlie Baker (R-Massachusetts), criticized "mismanagement" of the Afghanistan withdrawal and said that "Massachusetts is ready to assist Afghan refugees seeking safety and peace in America" in a pair of Tuesday tweets.
  • Gov. Larry Hogan (R-Maryland), said in a Monday video statement that Maryland is on track to welcome 180 Afghan visa holders and "stand[s] ready and willing to do even more," adding, "it's the least we can do."
  • Gov. Brian Kemp (R-Georgia), said that "it is vitally important to keep those who partnered with American armed forces over the last 20 years safe from harm," the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
  • Gov. Henry McMaster (R-SC), told reporters that those fleeing and "now it is our duty to help them. We need to help them," The State reported.
  • Gov. Kim Reynolds (R-Iowa)'s spokesperson told Axios that Reynolds wants to assist efforts to resettle Afghan refugees.
  • Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-California), said Monday that he's "proud" California is already home to a sizeable community of Afghan refugees and immigrants and is "working in terms of a lot of those refugees coming in and working with CBOs and non-profit organizations" to resettle more.
  • Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Virginia), tweeted Monday that he's "coordinating with DC and have made it clear: we're ready and willing to take thousands more. Virginia will continue to serve as safe harbor."
  • Gov. Tony Evers (D-Wisconsin), tweeted that the state "is ready to assist" efforts to resttle refugees in Wisconsin and "help these individuals who served our country and are now seeking refuge."

The US-backed Afghan government collapsed in a matter of days following the US' withdrawal of its military presence, leading the Taliban to swiftly take over control of the country for the first time since the US invasion in 2001.

The seemingly overnight Taliban resurgence collided with a bureaucratic backlog of outstanding visa applications yet to be processed and approved, putting vulnerable Afghans in the crosshairs.

Tens of thousands of Afghans worked alongside coalition forces in Afghanistan, many of whom have applied for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) to allow them to resettle in the US.

Approximately 2,000 Afghan SIV recipients and applicants have been able to leave Afghanistan, but thousands more with yet-to-be-processed applications remain.

In addition to those Afghans, many prominent political figures and human rights activists in the country are also in immediate danger of persecution for crossing the Taliban.

Before taking office, Biden pledged to restore annual refugee numbers after the Trump administration tightened restrictions.

But the US is currently on pace to take in fewer than 10,000 refugees this year, which would be the lowest level since 1975, and has so far accepted fewer than 500 refugees from Afghanistan in 2021, Insider's Charles Davis reported.

Advocacy groups and Evangelical Christians are raising alarm about the plight of vulnerable Afghans and calling on the Biden administration to get as many SIV and refugee seekers safely evacuated from Afghanistan as possible.

Some Republican governors, however, may resist efforts to take in Afghan refugees, leading to a potential partisan showdown with the Biden administration similar to the one that played out during the 2015 Syrian refugee crisis.

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