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Kim Reynolds: Iowa working to take in eligible Afghan refugees

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DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds said Tuesday her office was working with federal officials to help relocate eligible Afghan refugees in Iowa who worked for the U.S. government and are now fleeing a country gripped by chaos after armed Taliban forces seized control of Kabul this week.

“We have the capacity. We want to work with them to get them here,” Reynolds said during a WHO-AM radio interview at the Iowa State Fair. “They’ve helped us, helped Americans, and we’re more than willing to help them relocate to Iowa.”

According to news reports, evacuation flights resumed from Kabul’s international airport Tuesday after a frenzied and panic-filled day that saw thousands of Afghans swarm the tarmac, including some who fell off departing planes in desperate attempts to get out of Afghanistan.

The international and domestic fallout associated with the Biden administration’s handling of the phaseout of U.S. troops in Afghanistan after a 20-year presence and the failure of trained Afghani forces to protect their country were playing out as the focus shifted to evacuating Americans and relocating Afghan special immigrant visa recipients to new locations such as Iowa.

On Monday, Democratic President Joe Biden sent Congress a request for up to $500 million under the Migrant and Refugee Assistance Act for unexpected urgent needs of refugees, victims of conflict, and other people at risk as a result of the situation in Afghanistan. U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, a Red Oak Republican, told the Des Moines Register that Iowa must resettle Afghan refugees fleeing their failed nation that collapsed after the Taliban took power.

The Republican governor agreed, saying the state already has resettled 94 Iraqi and Afghan special immigrant visa recipients since fiscal 2017, and her office was exploring how to continue to support the Afghan visa recipients who supported the U.S. government.

“My team has been working with the federal government just to see if there are any new processes, any new emergency rules that are being put into place and then what are they doing with the vetting process,” Reynolds said during the WHO interview.

“It’s a little fluid right now with everything that’s going on, and so we’re continuing to reach out to them, understand what that process looks like and make them aware that we are willing and able to take on additional recipients,” she added.

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