After the lightning collapse of the flimsy Afghanistan government and military before the Taliban, the United States military is managing to hold the Kabul airport with around 4,000 troops in order to evacuate 5,000 to 9,000 people per day.
South Dakota could help those thousands who are fleeing violent theocracy by offering them shelter here where their rights to free speech, free press, and gender equality would be mostly respected. But to the Afghans who witnessed our failure to build a viable democracy on their home ground yet who still believe enough in America to abandon their homes and come live here, Governor Kristi Noem’s line remains, Call me when you’re an American. Governor Noem refuses to welcome Afghan refugees to South Dakota, instead seeing another opportunity to politicize foreign policy and bash President Joe Biden:
Governor Kristi Noem (R-South Dakota) isn’t so sure she would be open to the idea of South Dakota accepting Afghan refugees.
“We’ve evaluated this in the past, and the decision to accept refugees was based on how thoroughly they were vetted before they came to our state,” Noem explained.
Noem had previously said that she would be okay with accepting Syrian refugees in 2019 under then President Donald Trump. Now, she says that she has no faith in the Biden Administration’s ability to vet refugees.
“This is a dangerous part of the world, we know we have a lot of dangerous people who are there that want to do the United States harm,” Noem said. “We do not want them coming here unless we know they are an ally and a friend, and that they don’t want to destroy this country” [Austin Goss, “Noem Skeptical of Afghan Refugee Resettlement Efforts,” KSFY, 2021.08.17].
Back in 1975, we managed to evacuate 138,000 Vietnamese from Saigon, and we resettled them in every state. There wasn’t time for vetting in Saigon. We continued to take Hmong, Laotian, and other Indochinese refugees, and the Viet Cong didn’t use the opportunity to overrun South Dakota or the U.S. But if Governor Noem wants more vetting of refugees now, she’d better support more federal spending on more staff to vet all the Afghans who still view us as the beacon of freedom.
While Noem mongs fear, other Republican governors are recognizing our moral obligation to help refugees from the country we failed to fix:
Massachusetts Gov Charlie Baker, a moderate Republican, said in a series of tweets his state is “ready to assist Afghan refugees” who are “seeking safety and peace in America.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, another moderate Republican, said in a video posted to Twitter his state has already committed to taking in 180 refugees but is “ready and willing to do even more,” calling it a “moral obligation.”
…Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, said in a statement his state “stands ready to welcome refugees from this war torn country,” tweeting that Utahns should “open our homes and hearts” to them [Andrew Solender, “These Governors Are Offering to Take in More Afghan Refugees,” Forbes, 2021.08.17].
The Biden Administration is doing the best it can to respond to a quickly changing, complicated, and dangerous situation and act in America’s national security interest while helping people in need. As usual, Governor Noem is doing the worst she can, turning a foreign policy problem into one more campaign ploy without offering any practical solutions to help Americans or Afghans.