Gov. Spencer Cox toured the Cache Valley refugee center on Monday with the intent of understanding the goals and plans of Cache Valley in preparation for the influx of Afghan refugees expected to settle in Utah.
Cache Refugee and Immigrant Connection helps refugees in Cache Valley with needs such as finding housing, providing study sessions for American citizenship, connecting to mental health services and more. There are over 600 refugees in Cache Valley alone.
“There are several hundred families that CRIC is working with from many different geographical locations all across the world. It’s amazing,” Cox said. “I’m impressed by the generosity of people here. I’ve talked to other governors — people in their states support refugees coming yet don’t want them in their backyard. Here it is the exact opposite.”
By opening up the state to refugees and learning about the nonprofits that assist them across Utah, Cox hopes to give these people a better life. According to CRIC’s website, it is currently the only nonprofit in Cache Valley that provides free assistance with “preparing immigration documents for refugees and immigrants.”
On Aug. 25, Gov. Cox provided an update on Utah’s willingness to accept Afghanistan refugees in a letter addressed to President Biden. Utah is not accepting Special Immigrant Visa Holders but is hoping to accelerate the resettlement process.
“We still do not know how many and how soon Utah may start receiving Afghan refugees, but we want to be prepared for when they do start arriving,” Cox said.
Refugees arriving from Afghanistan or anywhere else will be coordinated and vetted through the state’s Refugee Services Office and two federally contracted refugee resettlement agencies: Catholic Community Services and the International Rescue Committee.
Utah has welcomed over 60,000 refugees over the course of several years from countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam and Somalia. Most who seek asylum in Utah end up in Salt Lake County.
In a luncheon with Cache County legislators and members from the Chamber of Commerce, Cox informed residents with concerns how the refugee program would work.
“There is a huge vetting process that they go through before they get here,” Cox said. “They meet with law enforcement, talk to police, and follow up frequently to let the refugees know that they are there as a resource to help get settled.”
Cox informed attendees that he was supposed to meet with the White House for a meeting directly related to the acceptance of Afghan refugees following Biden’s commitment to accept them. Since Aug. 14, 114,000 Afghans and 5,000 Americans have been evacuated. Unfortunately, the meeting was scrapped following a terrorist attack that resulted in the deaths of 13 U.S. soldiers in Kabul.
Currently, the United States is working on a second group of refugees who are in the process of being vetted. They will be distributed between three military bases: Fort Lee, Virginia; Fort Bliss, Texas; and Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, for resettlement in states that have volunteered to accept refugees.
“When tragedy occurs somewhere on the other side of the world, Utahns are always quick to show concern and willingness to help out,” Cox said. “It’s really incredible how willing everyone is here to work with refugees.”