UTAH, Aug. 25, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Gov. Spencer Cox on Wednesday provided an update on Afghani refugees that may be coming to Utah.
“Last week Gov. Spencer J. Cox sent a letter to President Biden expressing Utah’s willingness to accept Afghani refugees,” said a news release from the Office of the Governor. “The result has been an outpouring of support from Utahns to step up and assist.”
While the number of Afghani evacuees that may come to Utah remains unknown, Cox has provided the following statement on what is known so far:
“When tragedy occurs somewhere on the other side of the world, Utahns are always quick to show concern and willingness to help out. My office has received countless calls and emails from individuals, families, businesses and organizations offering to do something to support the efforts to bring Afghani refugees to Utah. We still do not know how many and how soon Utah may start receiving Afghani refugees, but we want to be prepared for when they do start arriving.
“What we do know is that any refugee from Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world who comes to Utah will be coordinated through the state’s Refugee Services Office and our two federally contracted local refugee resettlement agencies: Catholic Community Services and the International Rescue Committee.”
- The U.S. Department of State is in the process of establishing pathways for the resettlement of Afghani refugees in the United States.
- The U.S. is evacuating Afghanis who have a qualifying relationship with the U.S. They are all flying into the Dulles, Virginia, airport and being redirected to three military bases: Fort Lee, Virginia, Fort Bliss, Texas and Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.
- In this population there may be anywhere from 600-850 full SIVs (Special Immigrant Visa holders). These groups are assured resettlement in the U.S. and can go to the final resettlement sites and access full refugee benefits. SIVs are able to choose to resettle in places where they have U.S ties. California has about 40 percent of current SIVs. Utah is currently not on the State Department’s list of states SIVs can relocate to.
- A second group of refugees was in the middle of completing their SIV processing. This group will be taken to the military bases to complete their processing. They will also be sent off to their final resettlement sites and can access full refugee benefits.
- The third group of refugees is being called parolees. They will also be taken to the military base to be processed. This group will be able to apply for asylum and that process currently takes about two years, though there are discussions to speed up the process. They will be eligible to work. The State Department is also offering this population Reception and Placement (R&P) support which can cover costs including housing for up to 90 days. After that time they are not eligible for other benefits.
“All of these groups coming from Afghanistan have been allies, aids and, in many cases, put their lives on the line to protect American troops,” the news release said.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Catholic Community Services (CCS) are the state’s resettlement agencies. Any refugees coming to Utah will be resettled by one of these agencies.
Donating goods, money and time are all ways to help refugees, the news release said. One of the critical needs for refugees, as with many Utahns across the state, is access to affordable housing.
For general information about the State of Utah’s refugee resettlement program, visit the Refugee Services Office at jobs.utah.gov/refugees.
The two resettlement agencies, IRC and CCS, provide initial resettlement services to newly arrived refugees, including picking them up at the airport, providing housing, furniture and food, initial orientation and additional services, the news release said. Their support is ongoing for the first two months. They will also be the agencies receiving any Afghani SIVs or parolees.
The Refugee Services Office (RSO) through the state of Utah provides funding for case management support for up to two years, which is provided by IRC and CCS. Refugees can access services funded through the Office of Refugee Resettlement. RSO manages the distribution of funding, which pays English language learning, support to schools, youth mentoring and medical support, the news release said. RSO also offers refugees access to training and education, employment and career assistance, support for refugee community organizations, a gathering place at the Utah Refugee Center and licensed clinical social workers for ongoing mental health assistance. The Utah Refugee Center also provides walk-in support for any services refugees might need.
Gephardt Daily will have more on this developing story as information is made available.