Whitmer: State of Michigan prepared to welcome Afghan evacuees

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

The state of Michigan is preparing to welcome Afghan refugee families while it awaits further information from the U.S. Department of State, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Friday. 

Departments and agencies across the state are ready "to help ensure those who arrive in Michigan can get their feet on the ground," Whitmer said in a statement. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Friday that Michigan would welcome Afghan families.

"We have a rich history of multiculturalism — from the Dutch who settled in the West, to the Finns who mined the North, to the Middle-Easterners who made Dearborn a flourishing center for Arab culture, and countless others who make us who we are," Whitmer said. "People from around the world have come to Michigan over centuries for good-paying jobs, a high-quality education for their kids, and the right to live and worship freely." 

The statement comes as U.S. citizens and Afghanistan residents who aided the U.S. military effort struggle to leave Kabul amid the Taliban takeover following the U.S. withdrawal. 

The U.S. has committed to getting an estimated 10,000 remaining Americans out of the country but there are countless other Afghan residents who helped American soldiers who are also trying to evacuate.

The New York-based nonprofit International Refugee Assistance Project this week filed petitions with the State Department for Afghan special immigrant visa applicants it represents and the estimated 20,000 other applicants and their families — about 100,000 people total — awaiting evacuation to the U.S., according to the Associated Press.

Whitmer also thanked the roughly 70,000 Michigan residents "who made untold sacrifices over the past two decades" during the Gulf War Post 9/11. 

"We must also recognize the complex set of emotions they may be feeling at this time," Whitmer said. "There are sons and daughters leaving Afghanistan today whose moms and dads fought in the same conflict a lifetime ago." 

eleblanc@detroitnews.com