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Afghan refugees expected to call Montana home

Posted at 4:32 PM, Sep 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-22 10:41:02-04

MISSOULA — Montana leaders stand divided on the issue of resettling Afghan refugees in Montana.

While both the governor and our two U.S. Senators are supportive of the 75 evacuees who will soon call Montana home, the state's lone representative blasted the resettlement...

MTN News spoke with Congressman Matt Rosendale about his stance, as well as with the agency that will help the refugees rebuild their lives.

"We look forward to welcoming them soon and in addition possibly up to 75 other Afghan nationals," said International Rescue Committee in Missoula Deputy Director Eamon Fahey.

WEB EXTRA: IRC in Missoula's Eamon Fahey discusses Afghan refugees coming to MT

While the Department of State has a program that helps at-risk Afghan nationals, the potential 75 evacuees coming to Montana may not all be classified as Special Immigrant Visa refugees, some might be considered humanitarian parolees.

“For instance, there's a time component. So perhaps they didn't serve for as long as needed, supporting US troops or efforts," explained Fahey. "There are several categories. Other categories, maybe they worked for a media company, or were a government official who is, you know, and they now fear for their lives because, you know, they may have spoken out against the Taliban.”

The news that 75 Afghan refugees would resettle in Montana caused a firestorm on social media after Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT) tweeted on Sept. 16 that "today I learned that 75 refugees from Afghanistan will be arriving in Montana. I strongly oppose the resettlement of these Afghan nationals in Montana.”

He went on to say, “the traditional vetting process for these individuals is a 14-step procedure that takes well over a year. The mass evacuation of over 100,000 Afghan nationals in a matter of weeks has made proper vetting of these individuals near impossible.”

MTN News sat down with Congressman Rosendale and talk to him about the resettlement of refugees to Montana. He said his main reason for opposing it is the vetting process.

"I think they should be using the exact 14 Step, 18-to-24 month process that we use for the SIV's again if we were using that extensive process for the people that we're actually helping our troops, how can we use something less for people that we're not helping our troops is dangerous, and the people of Montana elected me to represent the state to protect our state and protect our nation and in good conscience, I can't sign off, or bringing folks to our state that could pose a national security threat," - Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT)

WEB EXTRA: Rep. Matt Rosendale discusses Afghan refugees coming to MT

Due to the urgency to get people out of Afghanistan, the vetting process was expedited. But refugees are still being vetted at transfer stations throughout the U.S. before they are resettled by agencies like the IRC in Missoula.

“Those that were resettled go through an extremely rigorous security vetting process. And, you know, it is a matter of fact, refugees are the most vetted security-wise the most vetted travelers to this country,” said Fahey.

Montana's other political leaders, such as Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester -- as well as Governor Greg Gianforte -- have expressed support of resettling Afghan refugees in Montana while also pushing for a fully-vetted process.

“The Senator believes we need a full and robust vetting process for refugees entering our country. We also need to honor our troops’ wishes and support those who put their lives at risk to assist U.S. service members, and the Senator encourages Montanans to welcome the properly vetted brave men and women, our allies, to the state. He believes it is shameful that President Biden caused this humanitarian crisis with the failed withdrawal from Afghanistan." - Spokesperson for US Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT)
“We have a duty to keep our promises to fully-vetted allies who worked hand-in-hand with our troops to fight extremism in Afghanistan and keep America safe. These folks helped save American lives on the battlefield and Montana will welcome them." - US Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT)
“With its ill-planned, catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Biden administration has left American citizens as Taliban hostages and has abandoned our Afghan allies who, as a result of supporting and helping U.S. troops, are at grave risk. Montana welcomes our fully-vetted Afghan allies who worked alongside us, have left their homes in the face of the Taliban's reemerging, merciless terror, and seek freedom and safety.” - Gov. Greg Gianforte (R-MT)