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Gov. Gianforte calls for halt to Afghan refugee relocations to Montana

Gianforte refugee
Zabihullah Mohmand
Posted at 3:26 PM, Oct 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-22 10:35:09-04

MISSOULA — Gov. Greg Gianforte is calling on the Biden Administration to halt the relocation of Afghan refugees to Montana following an alleged rape by one of those refugees in Missoula.

"We support providing a home for our Afghan allies that have been fully vetted. We had a tragic situation with alleged sexual assault yesterday, with someone who arrived here in the state earlier this month. I called on the Biden Administration. This individual did not have an SIV status, and I called on the Biden Administration to assure us that these refugees are fully vetted. It's not clear to us that that occurred in this situation. So, we're asking the Biden Administration to halt the placement of refugees here until they can assure us that the people that are being placed, our allies being placed here, are fully vetted." - Gov. Greg Gianforte (R-MT)

Gov. Gianforte calls for halt to Afghan refugee relocations to Montana

Zabihullah Mohmand, 19, — who is charged with felony sexual intercourse without consent for allegedly raping an 18-year-old after leaving a downtown Missoula bar earlier this week — is being held in the Missoula jail on $50,000 bond. Gov. Gianforte said he relocated here from Afghanistan at the beginning of October.

Zabihullah Mohmand
Zabihullah Mohmand

Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services spokesman Jon Ebelt told MTN News in an email that Mohmand is one of 20 people who was placed in Montana as part of the federal Afghan Placement and Assistance Program.

"DPHHS manages the Montana State Refugee Program. As such, this program is working with individuals arriving in Montana as part of the Afghan Placement and Assistance Program. As of today, 20 individuals (combination of adults and children) are in Montana (Missoula) as part of the Afghan Placement and Assistance Program. This is since late September. To be clear, federal agencies are responsible for the vetting process prior to their arrival," Ebelt stated in the email.

Afghan refugees can arrive in Montana in a few different ways. The Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program is for persons who worked with the U.S. Armed Forces as a translator or interpreter in Iraq or Afghanistan. A separate program -- the Afghan Placement and Assistance Program -- helps relocate refugees as humanitarian parolees.

In earlier reports by MTN News, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) said up to 75 Afghan nationals would resettle in Montana. Over the course of the past five years, the IRC in Missoula has helped about 400 refugees resettle in Western Montana. The IRC reports an 80% success rate in refugees becoming self-sufficient after 90 to 180 days of being stateside.

IRC

At-risk Afghan Nationals are granted this humanitarian parole status because of the fear for their lives as the Taliban take over Afghanistan.

IRC in Missoula — which is one of nine resettlement agencies a part of the Department of State’s APA Program — has welcomed seven single refugees and one refugee family from US military bases in Texas and New Mexico.

When the next Afghan refugee will land in Montana is still unknown but IRC Missoula deputy director Eamon Fahey predicts October will be a busy month, welcoming the humanitarian refugees.

MSO plane

“They may spend a month or more, during which time they're going through, again, security -- security vetting, interviews, health screenings,” Fahey previously told MTN News.

According to a press release from US Sen. Steve Daines’ office, Mohmand was admitted to the United States and placed in Montana under Humanitarian Parole -- a government program used to bring someone with a compelling emergency to temporarily stay in the United States. Sen. Daines learned about the status of Mohmand through the IRC.

This is distinct from a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV), which is a government program for persons who worked with the U.S. Armed Forces as a translator or interpreter in Iraq or Afghanistan. Up to 50 people per year are granted SIV visas.