Gov. Inslee encourages continued evacuation efforts of Afghan refugees

Aug 26, 2021, 5:52 PM | Updated: 6:00 pm
A U.S. military officer plays a ukulele for evacuees from Afghanistan at a waiting area at Ramstein Air Base on Aug. 26, 2021 in Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany. Ramstein has become one of the main preliminary destinations for evacuees leaving Afghanistan on U.S. military flights. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

Governor Jay Inslee sent a letter to President Joe Biden affirming Washington’s support for the people of Afghanistan, while also encouraging him to keep pushing forward on evacuation efforts.

The letter from Inslee comes after more than 100,000 people have been evacuated from the country since July. Conditions on the ground in Afghanistan continue to grow more dangerous, including the events Thursday that killed and wounded U.S. servicemembers and Afghan citizens in Kabul.

Washington state, Inslee writes, has welcomed nearly 150,000 refugees from 70 different counties since 1975. The state “remains ready to provide aid to Afghans who find themselves in peril after these last 20 years of conflict,” Inslee said.

The letter reads, in part:

Since 1975, Washington has welcomed nearly 150,000 refugees from 70 different countries. These remarkable individuals have contributed significantly to Washington’s economy and culture; they and their descendants are now inextricably connected with our future prosperity. In the past decade, almost 5,000 of these refugees have hailed from Afghanistan. Carrying with them the trauma of war, they nonetheless contribute significantly to our state in varied professional fields, including home care, retail, healthcare, financial planning, and transportation. Many have served as essential workers, protecting the health of Washingtonians and enabling life to continue over the past 18 months. Washington remains ready to provide aid to Afghans who find themselves in peril after these last 20 years of conflict, just as these members of our community once did.

Anticipating the arrival of new refugees, Washington’s state and local agencies are mobilizing to coordinate resettlement services, financial assistance, and housing. Concurrently, a groundswell of support has arisen from companies, community organizations, and individuals, all offering to contribute time and resources to the relief effort. I am heartened by the news that Washington will have another opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to embrace those in need.

While you consider all ways to rapidly airlift tens of thousands of people, I hope that you work to ensure services are readily available without regard to visa status – including resettlement programming, work authorization, and financial assistance – and to mitigate the imposition of costs or fees onto these vulnerable individuals.

State Republican leaders, including Rep. J.T. Wilcox, previously called on Gov. Inslee and other leaders to allow refugees from Afghanistan to come into Washington. Wilcox said those refugees should include “people in Afghanistan who put their lives on the line to work with Americans.”

When speaking to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH earlier this month, Wilcox pointed out that Washington has a tradition of welcoming refugees, as Inslee also mentioned in his letter.

“We have a tradition because Governor Evans, 40 years ago, who was a leader in recognizing that foreign people that are loyal to us and risk their lives deserve our help,” Wilcox said.

Read the full letter from the Gov. Inslee to President Biden here.

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Gov. Inslee encourages continued evacuation efforts of Afghan refugees