Aug 17, 2021 - News

Gov. Kim Reynolds supports certain Afghan refugees resettling in Iowa

Illustration of a migrant woman with her young child walking towards stars and stripes

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios Photo: Herika Martinez /Getty Images 

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds wants to help certain Afghan refugees get resettled in the state, her spokesperson Pat Garrett told Axios Monday.

Driving the news: The Republican governor hopes to continue efforts to resettle Afghan and Iraqi refugees who supported the U.S. military prior to its withdrawal from Afghanistan, Garrett said.

  • Her stance comes as leaders around the world grapple with a spiraling humanitarian crisis after the fall of the Afghan government to the Taliban.
  • Iowa is waiting for additional details from the federal government about new emergency processing and vetting procedures, Garrett said.

Of note: Iowa resettled 94 Iraqi and Afghan refugees in the last four years.

State of play: Beyond the crisis in Afghanistan, hundreds of refugees are likely to be resettled in the Des Moines area in coming months, Loren Bawn, an operations manager for the Iowa Bureau of Refugee Services (BRS), told Axios.

  • The expected arrivals follow a rollback of restrictive Trump-era policies that had greatly reduced the number of resettlements in Iowa and across the country.
  • President Biden more than tripled the annual refugee admission cap this fiscal year to 62,500. And he plans to raise it to 125,000 in the year that begins Oct. 1.

Zoom in: At least five new Iowa resettlement proposals are in the works from private agencies that provide placement services through agreements with the U.S. State Department, Bawn said.

By the numbers: The number of people coming to the metro in the next year is currently undetermined.

  • Iowa has the capacity to place as many as 2K a year once placement agencies are fully staffed and ready, Bawn said.
  • There have been 69 Iowa resettlements this fiscal year so far. That's down from 995 in 2016, according to the BRS.

Between the lines: The Midwest, and Iowa in particular, is far more open to refugees than some might think, Iowa Public Radio recently reported.

  • Iowa resettlements go back more than 40 years and include more than 2,600 Tai Dam refugees welcomed under former Gov. Robert Ray.
  • Iowa's largest pork producer testified before a U.S. Senate committee last month, calling for immigration reforms that could help fill vacant jobs.

The bottom line: There will likely be far more resettlements in the coming year but Iowa has got the history to show it works.


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