Gov. Eric Holcomb set the right tone last week as he announced that he would welcome the arrival of 5,000 Afghan refugees to Camp Atterbury, an Indiana National Guard facility that stretches across Johnson, Bartholomew and Brown counties.
Holcomb said in a statement that Hoosiers are “proud to do our part and provide a temporary home for Afghan evacuees who have supported this nation.”
It is certainly not a sentiment shared across the ideological spectrum of Holcomb’s Republican Party.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas tweeted that Americans should “rescue Afghans who’ve assisted the US military, but they should go to a neutral & safe third country. They should NOT come to US w/o a FULL security vetting.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy also has sought to make the Afghan resettlement effort part of the far right’s anti-immigrant agenda. He was quoted as saying that accepting Afghan refugees in this country would “have terrorists coming across the border.”
Indiana Republicans in Congress have been more measured in their responses, but several still have focused on protecting Hoosier safety while not explicitly offering a welcome to Afghan refugees who daily risked their lives to help the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan.
“It is extremely important that all local units of government and first responders know who they are, how many, and what part of the vetting process they’re in so Hoosiers do not suffer the fallout of President Biden’s disastrous withdrawal,” Sen. Mike Braun said in a press release.
“I have communicated to the relevant federal departments,” Braun said, “that vetting details and any plans for resettlement must be transparent and public so we can honor our commitments to our Afghan allies while keeping Hoosier communities safe.”
Rep. Jackie Walorski tweeted: “I have been assured that these individuals have been fully vetted … I take my oversight responsibilities very seriously, and I will continue to closely monitor this situation.”
The truth is that Dale Lyles, the Indiana National Guard adjutant general, already has explained the very extensive vetting process, and we trust the military to follow it.
Afghan refugees currently in Europe or the Middle East go through a vetting process from multiple federal agencies before boarding planes to the United States, Lyles said. From there, the process is repeated at every stop the refugees make before setting foot on Camp Atterbury grounds. After landing in the United States, refugees will go through another vetting process before being cleared to go to Atterbury or one of the eight other U.S. military facilities tapped to house them.
Once at Atterbury, they will undergo more security screenings. Consequently, local residents should not be concerned about security risks, Holcomb and Lyles said.
What needs to be done now is to make sure the Afghan evacuees feel safe and welcome and are well taken care of.
Holcomb said his administration wants to welcome them to “permanent freedom.” We hope Hoosiers of all political persuasions will follow his lead and do what they can to help, through the Red Cross or immigrant resettlement agencies.
And, like the governor, we hope some of the evacuees will fall in love with Indiana, stick around and use their talents here.•
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