SANTA FE — Joining a bipartisan group of other governors, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a Friday letter to President Biden that New Mexico stands willing to “resettle and accommodate” refugees seeking asylum after fleeing from Afghanistan.
The Democratic governor, who sent the letter with House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, pointed out New Mexico’s history of cultural diversity and said the state would welcome individuals and families who supported efforts to bring peace and democracy to Afghanistan.
“We have a proud tradition of welcoming refugees from around the world with open arms, and we make no exception for the people of Afghanistan,” Lujan Grisham and Egolf wrote in their letter.
Many Afghan residents have sought to flee the country during the rapid Taliban takeover of the country that occurred as the U.S. was set to complete the withdrawal of combat troops following 20 years of war.
In the immediate chaos after the Taliban takeover of Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan, video footage showed Afghan citizens running alongside and trying to cling on to a departing U.S. military jet as it departed.
Given that backdrop, the governors of roughly a dozen states, including Utah, California and Massachusetts, have already offered to take in Afghan refugees, while Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey also said this week his administration would welcome those fleeing Taliban rule.
New Mexico, which has a Refugee Resettlement Program that’s administered by the state Human Services Department, became the latest state on Friday with Lujan Grisham and Egolf saying they will await further direction from the Biden administration regarding resettlement plans.
While many details of the resettlement effort have not been announced, Pentagon officials said this week that Fort Bliss in El Paso will be a temporary relocation site for potentially thousands of Afghan refugees.
In all, an estimated 88,000 individuals who worked for the U.S. in Afghanistan and their family members are in the process of applying for special immigrant visas, according to a Forbes report, with many of them still trapped in the country.
Already, a total of 17 refugees — six from Afghanistan and 11 from the Democratic Republic of Congo — were resettled in New Mexico from October 2020 through July 2021, according to the U.S. State Department’s Refugee Processing Center.
Meanwhile, the resettlement of refugees has occasionally surfaced as a political issue in New Mexico in past years, including in 2016 when Donald Trump falsely accused then-Gov. Susana Martinez of welcoming large numbers of refugees from war-torn Syria to the state.