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Presence of Afghan refugees in Scottsdale sparks outcry from lawmaker

Gov. Doug Ducey said last year Arizona would accept Afghan refugees. Many are now settling in Scottsdale and a Republican lawmaker apparently didn't get the memo.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — About 300 men, women and children from Afghanistan are living at a Scottsdale hotel and are expected to assimilate soon into local schools and the workforce.

The state announced in August that Afghan refugees would eventually be arriving in Arizona as part of the Refugee Resettlement Program in the wake of the Afghanistan war.

Refugees were recently transferred from a military base to a local hotel that has been previously used to house refugees.

It appears many of them will begin a new life in Scottsdale, but one of the community's state representatives apparently didn't get the memo on their arrival.

The presence of the refugees prompted state Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, to post a video on Twitter Tuesday morning while standing in front of a hotel. Kavanagh seems to have not known about Arizona's plans for the refugees and made several false statements about them during the video.

“We don’t know who is coming here, why they’re coming here and what security precautions are being enacted to protect the community,” Kavanagh said.

RELATED: Arizona likely to become top destination for Afghan refugees

Gov. Doug Ducey and House Speaker Rusty Bowers issued a joint statement in August announcing the refugees would resettle in Arizona according to federal law. 

The refugees were vetted and approved by various national security agencies and received special immigrant visas because of their service to the U.S. during the 20-year war, according to the statement.

“They helped our military members in their country and now we stand ready to help them in ours,” says the statement from Ducey and Bowers.

According to a representative of the Arizona Resettlement Program, the 300 Afghan refugees in Scottsdale are staying in temporary housing while they await transition to permanent housing. 

Overall, 2,055 Afghan evacuees have been approved for placement in Arizona through the Afghanistan Placement Assistance Program. Most have resettled in Glendale, Phoenix, Chandler, Tempe and Mesa.

Kavanagh told 12 News he was unaware of the governor’s August announcement before posting his video. He said he’s also concerned Scottsdale schools were not adequately notified of the refugees’ arrival.

The Scottsdale Unified School District issued a statement to its families Friday, telling them a team had been mobilized to prepare for the children’s eventual arrival, though when that happens is not yet clear. The statement reads in part:

“Some in our community are questioning whether SUSD should be serving these refugee children. In addition to the fact that we are required by federal law to do so, it is important to reiterate two of our core values: Empathy … and Inclusion…”

Tasya Peterson, a spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Economic Security, said the refugees are receiving support from a number of government agencies, churches, community organizations, and the Afghan community.

“Afghan evacuees began arriving in August 2021 at the start of Operation Allies Welcome (OAW) and will continue to arrive throughout the month of February,” Peterson said.

Several local organizations are accepting donations to support the refugees. These organizations can be found at https://www.rispnet.com/resettlement-agencies/ and https://www.rispnet.com/local-organizations/.

RELATED: Dozens of Afghan evacuees sickened, food poisoning suspected in Tucson

RELATED: 'The Afghan in us never leaves' | Family who fled Afghanistan in the 80s helps welcome refugees

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