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South Dakota one of 4 states not resettling Afghan evacuees



Afghan Refugees Religious Response

Families evacuated from Kabul, Afghanistan, walk through the terminal to board a bus Aug. 31 after they arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport, in Chantilly, Va. 




South Dakota is one of four states, along with the District of Columbia, that won’t be resettling any of the nearly 37,000 Afghan evacuees who made it to the U.S. during the final days of its chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan last month.

Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota, which is the state’s refugee resettlement agency, decided not to accept any Afghans after weighing local conditions and its ability to resettle them.

Rebecca Kiesow-Knudsen, the group’s chief operating officer, said Thursday that those arriving from Afghanistan without special immigrant visas are currently not eligible to work or receive federal aid to help them resettle.

“We had really significant concerns about our ability to provide the level of support to help make that integration successful,” she said.

Kiesow-Knudsen said the agency was facing a “rapidly evolving situation” that could change depending on whether Congress decides to provide funding and work eligibility for evacuees who have not been granted refugee status.

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The Biden administration this week began telling governors and state refugee coordinators how many Afghan evacuees they would receive. The numbers ranged from more than 5,200 people who are headed to California to as few as 10 being resettled in Alabama and 10 in Mississippi. South Dakota, along with Hawaii, West Virginia, Wyoming and the District of Columbia, are not expected to resettle anyone from the first group.

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