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North Dakota approved to take in more Afghan refugees

State refugee coordinator Holly Triska-Dally told lawmakers on Wednesday that North Dakota has the green light to resettle 69 Afghan evacuees in the Fargo area, 15 in the Bismarck area and 12 in the Dickinson area.

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North Dakota Refugee Coordinator Holly Triska-Dally speaks to the Legislature's interim Human Services Committee on Wednesday, April 27, 2022.
Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service
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BISMARCK — The U.S. State Department has approved the resettlement of 96 Afghan refugees in North Dakota during the current fiscal year — nearly twice the figure previously reported by Forum News Service.

State refugee coordinator Holly Triska-Dally told lawmakers on Wednesday, April 27, that North Dakota has the green light to resettle 69 Afghan evacuees in the Fargo area, 15 in the Bismarck area and 12 in the Dickinson area.

Forum News Service reported in September that Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) had authorization to resettle 49 Afghans within 100 miles of Fargo.

Already, 52 Afghans who fled the Taliban takeover of their home country have arrived in Fargo during the current fiscal year, which began in October.

A dozen of the Fargo arrivals have full-time jobs, mostly in manufacturing, while six more are learning English and preparing to enter the workforce. Twenty-eight of the arrivals are children, and six are mothers caring for children at home.

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Some of those who have settled in North Dakota's biggest city still have spouses and other family members stuck in Afghanistan, Triska-Dally said. If they can find a way out of the Asian country, LIRS has authorization to resettle them in Fargo as well, she said.

The refugee resettlements in Bismarck and Dickinson are part of a new program through humanitarian aid organization Church World Service that allows religious congregations, businesses and immigrant support groups to sponsor Afghan refugees.

Bismarck non-profit Global Neighbors is facilitating resettlements in the state's capital city, while the Evangelical Bible Church has signed up to assist arrivals in Dickinson. So far, one Afghan refugee has landed in Bismarck and six have arrived in Dickinson, Triska-Dally said.

All of the Afghan refugees in North Dakota have undergone an extensive vetting process that included background checks and other security screenings, Triska-Dally said.

More than 76,000 refugees evacuated from Afghanistan last summer have entered communities across the country, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Historically, North Dakota has not been a frequent destination for Afghan refugees, only resettling 115 in the two decades preceding last year's Taliban takeover.

LIRS also has approval to resettle 180 refugees from countries other than Afghanistan in the Fargo area. The majority of the 33 non-Afghan refugees who have already arrived in the state came from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Triska-Dally told lawmakers that the U.S. plans to resettle 100,000 Ukrainians in the wake of a Russian invasion that has caused many to flee the eastern European country. However, officials have not yet laid out hard plans or timelines for resettling Ukrainians in North Dakota.

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Since 2000, North Dakota has been one of the country's leaders in refugee resettlements per capita. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and a slowdown of refugee programs by former President Donald Trump's administration led to a significant drop in arrivals over the last several years.

LIRS North Dakota Field Director Dan Hannaher said refugees benefit the state by adding diversity to its communities, filling open jobs and participating in the local economy.

Jeremy Turley is a Bismarck-based reporter for Forum News Service, which provides news coverage to publications owned by Forum Communications Company.
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