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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Refugee organization: Idaho to welcome 400 Afghan nationals

A young boy pulls a suitcase as refugees arrive from Afghanistan aboard an evacuation flight at Heathrow Airport in London, Thursday Aug. 26, 2021. The U.K. defense ministry has organised an air-lift of vulnerable citizens from Kabul, following the Taliban assuming power in Afghanistan.  (Dominic Lipinski)
Associated Press

Associated Press

NAMPA, Idaho – Roughly 400 Afghan refugees will resettle in Idaho over the next fiscal year, officials with the International Rescue Committee in Boise said on Tuesday.

About 50,000 Afghans are expected to be admitted to the United States under a program called “Operation Allies Welcome.” The group will include translators, drivers and others who helped the U.S. military during the 20-year war and who feared reprisals from the Taliban after they quickly seized power last month.

Julianne Donnelly Tzul, the executive director of the Boise organization, spoke at a panel Tuesday about the state’s role in resettling Afghans, the Idaho Press reported. Most of the Afghan nationals will come in under humanitarian parole, which is like a visa that allows someone enter the country if they have been determined to be in danger and have undergone extensive vetting.

“The process of deciding how many people come to Idaho and every other local area in the U.S. is a very deliberate one, it’s a careful one, it’s a collaborative one. It’s not unilateral,” Tzul said. “We are not just handed a number.”

Tzul said the process involves communication with schools, medical systems, local governments and law enforcement. Idaho’s governor, State Police and congressional delegation are invited to a formal quarterly meeting to discuss who might come and the impact on local systems, she said.

Tzul and others on the community panel touched on the same topics that Idaho Gov. Brad Little and the Idaho congressional delegation addressed in a letter sent to President Joe Biden on Friday. Little and the congressmen said they expect the government to “uphold the most stringent vetting standards.”

“Idaho has a long history of helping those who face persecution and life-threatening circumstances due to their religious beliefs, ethnicity, or other political affiliations,” they wrote. “With that said, the State of Idaho will not tolerate a change to the vetting process in order to expedite the resettlement of refugees.”

Idaho Office for Refugees Communications Specialist Holly Beech said her office has “full confidence in the thorough screening and vetting process that’s in place and has been working for decades.”

Nawid Mousa, a civil engineer and former refugee from Afghanistan, said the incoming refugees risked their lives for the United States and should be welcomed with open arms. Mousa said he has faith in the system and local governments taking “the right measures to process and vet” people.

“This country was based on people coming and looking for freedom,” Mousa said. “We need to not have the intention to somehow bar them from coming in.”