Afghan and Iraqi refugees can ask to be resettled in Salt Lake City

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Afghans gather at Murray Park for a prayer vigil in honor of UtahÕs Afghan refugees, onSaturday, Aug. 21, 2021.

The U.S. Department of State has outlined how immigrants from Afghanistan and Iraq can make it known where they wish to be sent — and Salt Lake City is one of the possible destinations.

The instructions for the special immigrant visas have three options Afghans and Iraqis can use to “influence” where they’ll be placed in the United States. The first is to choose from a list of one of 19 areas that resettlement agencies have identified as having “reasonable cost of living, housing availability, supportive services, and welcoming communities with volunteers and resources.” That list includes Salt Lake City.

Two weeks ago, Gov. Spencer Cox sent a letter to President Joe Biden offering Utah as a destination for Afghans, citing the state’s “long history of welcoming refugees from around the world” and adding, “We are eager to continue that practice and assist with the resettlement of individuals and families fleeing Afghanistan.”

The other cities or areas listed by the State Department are Phoenix; Denver; Jacksonville, Florida; Atlanta; Chicago; Baltimore; St. Louis; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; northern New Jersey, Las Vegas, Buffalo, New York; Cleveland; Portland, Oregon; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Austin, Texas; Dallas-Fort Worth; and Houston.

Refugees can also list a friend or family member they’d like to be resettled near, but the State Department warns them to be “aware of the cost of living and housing availability.” Refugees are specifically warned that the Washington, D.C., metro area and some cities in California are “very expensive places to live” and that resettlement benefits “may not comfortably cover the cost of living in these areas. Unless you have close relatives or friends in these areas who are able to provide financial support and housing until you find employment that covers your living expenses, it is best to allow a resettlement agency to choose a suitable location for you.”

Because of a “critical” housing shortage in Sacramento, Calif., the only refugees who will be resettled in that area are those with a spouse, parent, child or sibling already living there.

Refugees are also warned that “it may not always be possible” to honor placement requests. And they don’t have to make a specific request — they can allow a resettlement agency to choose a location for them, based on information they provide about them and their families.