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U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said state and federal officials are working to resettle Afghan refugees fleeing the rapid collapse and takeover of the country's government and armed forces by the Taliban.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds “made very clear today that in the spirit of (former Iowa Gov.) Bob Ray taking Vietnamese refugees that Iowa would be very open to Afghan refugees," Grassley said Tuesday during a stop in Davenport.
Reynolds said Tuesday her office was working with federal officials to help relocate eligible Afghan refugees in Iowa who worked for the U.S. government and are now fleeing a country gripped in chaos over the withdrawal of U.S. troops after a 20-year presence and billions spent to equip and train Afghan security forces.
According to news reports, evacuation flights resumed from Kabul’s international airport Tuesday after a frenzied and panic-filled day that saw thousands of Afghans swarm the tarmac, including some who fell off departing planes in desperate attempts to get out of Afghanistan.
Grassley noted his support as ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee for a bipartisan bill Congress passed late last month to protect Afghan allies of the United States.
The bill expedited efforts to improve and increase the number of visas extended to Afghans who assisted the U.S. during the War on Terror, which became more urgent upon the Biden administration’s announced withdrawal of all U.S. troops in Afghanistan by Aug. 31.
The bill increased the number of visas by an additional 8,000 and broadened eligibility to Afghans who provided military logistics support, alongside translators and others supporting sensitive and trusted U.S. military operations. The legislation also provided special immigrant status for certain surviving spouses and children of murdered applicants.
"And it's very important that we get those people out of there. But, we've increased it by 8,000," Grassley said. "Now, will that be enough?
“Right now, we think that it is enough. But, getting it done is within the executive branch of government. If there's more money that needs to be done, we can appropriate more money. But, I don't think those are issues. I think the issue is just the mechanics of getting the job done.”
Fellow Iowa Republican U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst co-sponsored the Senate bill.
"Given the Biden administration’s haphazard withdrawal from Afghanistan, we must now fulfill our commitment to those who put themselves in harm’s way by ensuring the program has the capacity to fully process and help bring these individuals to safety," Ernst said in statement at the time of the bill's passage.
U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, a U.S. Army veteran and member of the House Homeland Security Committee, co-sponsored similar bills in the House.
"As our troops leave Afghanistan, we must ensure that there are not unnecessary and burdensome requirements in place which keep the U.S. from honoring our promises," Miller-Meeks said in a released statement at the time of the bill's passage. "Our partners risked their own lives and the lives of their families to fight alongside and support American soldiers."
Biden late Monday allocated $500 million in additional funds for relocating Afghan refugees, including applicants for Special Immigrant Visas, in response to the Taliban’s swift takeover of the country.
As of Monday, the United States had evacuated about 2,000 of the more than 80,000 Afghan civilians who have sought U.S. visas and worked with the U.S. or international organizations and now face the threat of retribution from the Taliban.
Reynolds' office said Iowa has resettled 94 Iraqi and Afghan special immigrant visa recipients since fiscal 2017, and her office was exploring how to continue to support the Afghan visa recipients who supported the U.S. government.
Rod Boshart of the Gazette Des Moines Bureau contributed to this article.