Utah, one of the most welcoming states for refugees, volunteered to take in people who fled Afghanistan as the Taliban seized control.
And, in recent weeks, refugee agencies in the state have hurried to get housing and assistance lined up for potentially scores of families, unsure of just how many would come here.
On Wednesday, the State Department informed governors how many to expect among the first group of 37,000.
Utah will receive 765. And they’ll start to arrive in October.
“We are grateful to offer a safe landing place to 765 Afghans and recognize the new perspectives and compassion they will bring to our state,” Gov. Spencer Cox said in a statement. “There is still work to be done to prepare, and we are awaiting additional information from the State Department.
The Associated Press obtained the data for the entire nation and reports that California is slated to take 5,200 Afghan refugees, the most in the nation. Other major destinations include Maryland, Texas and Virginia, partly because they already have large numbers of Afghans living there.
Colorado is taking in 865, while Nevada will resettle 150. Wyoming is among the small group of states that won’t receive any of these refugees.
Most of these refugees are now staying at U.S. military bases, undergoing security screenings and medical evaluations.
The governor’s office said a number of Utah’s refugees are still being evaluated and do not yet have refugee status. These are people the government is calling “parolees.” They will be allowed to work and receive employment assistance but no other benefits until they make it through the State Department’s standard process.
Cox previously sent President Joe Biden a letter saying the state is willing to accept refugees.
“We are eager to continue that practice,” Cox wrote, “and assist with the resettlement of individuals and families fleeing Afghanistan.”
The State Department listed Salt Lake City as one of 19 places Afghan refugees were encouraged to select, based on affordability and how welcoming a place has been for refugees.
Utah has already started to receive some of these refugees. On Sept. 2, Azim Kakaie landed in Salt Lake City. He was an air traffic controller helping the U.S. at the airport in Kabul. He had a special immigrant visa to get here. Kakaie has relatives in Utah among the 60 to 80 families in the state’s Afghan community.
Others in Utah’s Afghan community hope to welcome relatives. At a recent prayer vigil, 9-year-old Arya Mustafawi, said, “I want to bring my cousins back from Afghanistan to America to get them away from the Taliban.”
These refugees are largely people who helped U.S. forces in Afghanistan or are their close family members. Some are also journalists, human rights workers or activists who would face persecution if they stayed in their home country.
The AP reports that the U.S. will help resettle 65,000 Afghans by month’s end and another 95,000 in the next year.