Photo Credit: Gov. Bill Lee / Facebook
The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –
Governor Lee is asking the White House for transparency as Tennessee prepares for the incoming of at least 415 refugees from Afghanistan.
Last week, an email sent by the U.S. Department of State’s Afghan Placement and Assistance Program provided Governor Lee’s office with an estimated number of refugees to expect but also told them to anticipate that the number would increase.
Governor Lee’s office stated on Friday that they had only been provided with limited information from President Biden’s administration about the resettlement plans.
“Significant details are still outstanding, and as I’ve said before, the federal government owes Tennesseans full transparency into their plan and vetting process,” Lee stated.
Lee continued, “Whether it’s persecuted Christians or interpreters who served with our troops, Tennesseans have the right to know exactly who is being settled where. While we await more information from the federal government, we are in direct communication with our congressional delegation, members of the General Assembly and local officials.”
In late 2019, Governor Lee was criticized by conservatives for his decision to allow refugees to continue to be placed in the state. When then-President Donald Trump allowed states to choose whether they wanted to accept refugees, Lee opted in, even though both chambers of the state legislature opposed the move.
Lee acknowledged recently that he was hesitant to agree to taking in additional refugees but said that he wanted to provide aid to American allies who were leaving Afghanistan.
“The situation is horrific, and we must bring Americans home safely and support allies who have fought alongside U.S. troops,” Lee said.
Early plans show that about 350 of those evacuees were to be placed in Nashville, with another 25 heading to Memphis and 20 each going to Knoxville and Chattanooga.
The refugees are placed through a federal program, but local resettlement agencies will handle the providing of services for the individuals.
Lawrence Bartlett, director of the refugee resettlement program for the federal government, says the Office of Refugee Admissions plans to look closely at each city’s ability to receive additional Afghans.
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“Throughout the program period, participating local resettlement agencies will continue to assess the capacity of the community to receive these individuals and will consult with key stakeholders,” Bartlett said.
Those stakeholders include local governments and officials with education, public health, safety, and social services.
Refugees are expected to begin arriving in the coming weeks. Nashville mayor John Cooper says his city stands ready for them.
“America is a nation of immigrants, and Nashville will always be a welcoming city,” Cooper said on Twitter.
Republican leaders in the state have mixed feelings about resettlement in Tennessee.
Lt. Governor Randy McNally has stated that he would like to “halt illegal immigration” and place more restrictions on who can come into the United States but also said that the Afghan refugees present a “unique situation” and believes that the country needs to provide assistance to those who helped U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
House Speaker Cameron Sexton has stated that he is not in favor of accepting the refugees.
Both have said that the federal government needed to provide a greater level of transparency regarding the vetting process for refugees.
In total, more than 37,000 Afghan refugees will be resettled in 46 states. Over half of those individuals hold Special Immigrant Visas for helping the U.S. government or military or being related to someone who did.
About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career. Most recently, he served as Deputy Directory for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others. He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History. Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com