HELENA (Daily Montanan) – Gov. Greg Gianforte said on Thursday he plans to welcome fully-vetted Missoula-bound Afghan refugees fleeing the humanitarian crisis stemming from the end of the war in Afghanistan.
“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,” he said in an emailed statement to the press. His office noted the State Department plans to place 75 refugees in Missoula. The evacuees could start arriving as soon as October.
Also in his statement, Gianforte again criticized the Biden administration for how it ended America’s longest war: “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.”
U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, Montana’s only congressional Democrat, also spoke about the refugees during a press conference in Helena on Thursday.
“These folks have been fully vetted, to my understanding … They are people who helped us on the ground, saved lives and gave us information we would not have otherwise had. I think we have an obligation to treat them right because they helped us and so, as I’ve said before, as far as communities taking them in, I think communities have the last say in that. And they have to be OK with it … but I think there are plenty of communities in the state that are open to taking in some of these refugees, so yeah, if they’re fully vetted I’m OK with it,” he said, according to the Helena Independent Record.
In a statement, Tester also said, “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.”
The Associated Press said the the Afghan evacuees go through a Department of Homeland Security-coordinated security vetting before being admitted.
A spokesperson for U.S. Sen. Steve Daines said in a statement, “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.”
U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale, one of 16 representatives to vote against increasing the number of visas granted to Afghans, criticized the relocation efforts, and he said he believed proper vetting by the Biden administration was “near impossible.”
Rosendale advocated that the people be settled in countries around Afghanistan “that share their values and culture.”
“I strongly oppose the resettlement of these Afghan nationals in Montana,” he wrote on Twitter.