In a letter to Biden, Cox offers Utah as a destination for Afghan refugees

Governor says that Utah’s “long history of welcoming refugees” will help them restart their lives in a new country.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Gov. Spencer Cox, speaks at the Swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday, July 20, 2021.

The United Nations has reported that nearly 400,000 people have been displaced since the beginning of the year due to violence in Afghanistan as the Taliban took control of the government after U.S. troops were withdrawn. Gov. Spencer Cox is offering Utah as a potential landing spot for the many refugees fleeing from Afghanistan.

Cox penned a letter to President Joe Biden that he posted on social media Tuesday saying that Utah’s “long history of welcoming refugees from around the world” would make the Beehive State a good landing spot for those fleeing the country to restart their lives.

“We are eager to continue that practice and assist with the resettlement of individuals and families fleeing Afghanistan,” Cox wrote.

Cox said that he was “deeply saddened by the human tragedy unfolding in Afghanistan.” He acknowledged that Utah has no direct role to play in U.S. diplomatic or military policy, but said that he wanted to offer help to Afghan refugees, especially those who “valiantly helped U.S. troops, diplomats, journalists and other civilians over the past 20 years.”

The letter states that descendants of Latter-day Saint pioneers, who settled the state after “fleeing religious persecution 170 years ago,” have a “deep understanding” of the “danger and pain caused by forced migration,” Cox wrote.

Cox said that Utah’s history also gives its citizens an appreciation for “the wonderful contributions of refugees in our communities.”

The governor asked Biden to advise the state in the coming weeks on “how we can assist.”

The International Rescue Committee reports that more than 300,000 Afghan civilians have contributed to U.S. military efforts in the past 20 years, but only a minority qualify for refugee protection in the United States. Those who worked with the military qualify with their families for special immigrant visas, but thousands are stuck in a yearslong backlog that is only getting worse after the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

During a news conference Monday, Biden said there were plans to airlift more Afghan families in “coming days.”