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OPINION | EDITORIAL: All friends here

Thank you for all your help September 20, 2021 at 5:01 a.m.

Get out the Granny Mawmaw cookies and the homemade pecan pie. Down the block, new people are moving in.

Last week the White House began telling governors and their state offices about how many Afghan evacuees would be coming into their charge. Gov. Asa Hutchinson's office said Arkansas could get up to 98 people.

"I have been briefed on the heightened security vetting and the comprehensive health screenings, intake and vaccinations that are being implemented by our federal partners," the governor said at a news conference. "We are expecting Afghan refugees in the near future with more coming as they are assigned to the resettlement agencies in the state by their national parent organizations."

These folks, it can be assumed, are the most vetted and screened. For there are still people in Afghanistan who helped the Americans over the last 20 years who are trying to get out. But if their papers aren't in perfect order, and even if they are, the Taliban has them hostage. Those who are coming here are not only among the lucky, but most assuredly friends of the United States.

As far as health concerns, there is a bit of that. A measles outbreak has contributed to the delay of getting some refugees/allies on evacuation flights from Kabul. But according to the papers, there are people providing inoculations for that disease and the covid-19 virus. It'd be no stretch to assume the percentage of vaccinated people coming here from Afghanistan would greatly surpass the percentage of Arkansans who've got the shot(s).

It's also no surprise to note that faith-based organizations are involved in this resettlement. Why, of course. A certain Book says something about I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. A lot of people in this country take that kind of thing seriously. Thank God.

Stephen Simpson's story in Friday's newspaper quoted Hannah Lee, a spokeswoman for Canopy Northwest Arkansas, a refugee resettlement agency in Fayetteville. Her comments to him deserve to be repeated, because they'll probably put a lot of people at ease:

"Afghan nationals will go through extensive vetting before ever stepping foot in the [United States]. This includes rigorous vetting in select countries, including Italy and Kuwait, before coming to the U.S. Once here, all Afghan refugees will go to a designated processing site near Dulles Airport, managed by the Department of State 24/7, with 200-250 Department of State/USAID staff working shifts to welcome new arrivals and process them for onward travel to military installations.

"From there, refugees will be flown to one of eight bases in the United States where they will receive medical screenings and other services. They are then referred to a resettlement site like Canopy.

"Refugees undergo the most thorough vetting process of any individual in the U.S., which takes up to two years on average. Once they are in the U.S., they are here legally and begin the process of rebuilding their lives. Canopy works with refugees for up to three to five years to help with integration. Ninety-eight percent of Canopy households are financially self-sufficient by Day 180 in the U.S."

Ninety-eight percent. Self-sufficient. In six months. That's better than the average American neighborhood.

There has been a lot of (deserved) criticism of this newish American presidential administration for its handling of the situation in Afghanistan, including this country's surrender therein, and the chaos that came with it. And there are still friends of this country stuck behind enemy lines.

The people coming here are already familiar with the American Way even if they don't know how to say it yet. They knew they didn't want to live under the Taliban. And they helped our soldiers during the war. Some will be highly educated and grateful to be here. Some will not have as much education, but will be equally grateful to be here. They already know they'd rather live a life of freedom. After all, didn't they put their lives on the line in their own country to try to make it so? Now they're on the run. Until they find a permanent place to settle. So . . . .

Welcome home, y'all. You'll get used to the colloquialisms and the linguistic style soon enough. Strange lands have strange habits. You'll be calling the Hogs in no time.

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