Las Vegas Sun

December 5, 2021

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Nevadans can be proud to welcome Afghan evacuees as our neighbors


Andrew Harnik / Associated Press

Afghan refugees walk through an Afghan refugee camp at Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst, N.J., Monday, Sept. 27, 2021. The camp currently holds approximately 9,400 Afghan refugees and has a capacity to hold up to 13,000.

In celebrating the arrival of approximately 150 Afghan evacuees and pledging support for their relocation to Nevada, state leaders and local charitable organizations are exemplifying our finest values in the Silver State.

“I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Nevada is and will continue to be a welcoming state for all,” Gov. Steve Sisolak said last week in announcing that his office was partnering with organizations such as Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada to aid the evacuees’ transition to life in their new home.

Indeed, Nevada does welcome all seeking to build a better life for themselves and their families, including those whose lives have been thrown into turmoil due to war, political upheaval, natural disasters and the like.

That’s particularly the case in Las Vegas, where we recognize that our community’s diversity — in viewpoints, in attitudes, in ethnicity, in nationality, in gender, in sexual orientation — is a key to its vitality. In embracing recent immigrants and our fellow Americans, we strengthen our city culturally and economically for everyone.

Sisolak gave a nod to this value by creating his Governor’s Office for New Americans shortly after taking office. That office, which will coordinate with local nonprofits to help the Afghan evacuees, is designed to help newcomers establish themselves in their communities by providing information and assistance on enrolling their children in school, registering a vehicle, obtaining utility services, getting support from social and financial services, navigating governmental processes, getting business licenses — essentially any guidance they need to root themselves in their new home.

Shamefully, though, Nevada’s state Republican Party is meeting our new arrivals with hostility, stoking xenophobic hatred and racism while criticizing those who are aiding the evacuees.

It’s a shocking display of faithlessness by the GOP — the arriving Afghans defended our soldiers overseas, protected them and in some cases fought by their side. Apparently the GOP now thinks being a U.S. ally is a matter for scorn and rejection.

Although the federal government is requiring evacuees to undergo background checks and be tested for COVID-19 and other illnesses before being approved for relocation, Nevada Republicans are fueling false perceptions that the newcomers present security and health risks.

This is not only fearmongering, it’s the height of hypocrisy coming from a party that has welcomed the presence of violent right-wing groups like the Proud Boys into its ranks while feeding the anti-vaccination movement and staunchly opposing mask mandates, social distancing guidelines and other COVID-19 precautions.

The state GOP further had the gall to suggest that the arrival of a mere 150 evacuees would drive up unemployment — in other words, that these newcomers would take Nevadans’ jobs. Never mind that employers are clamoring for applicants for open positions, or that Nevada Republicans have lambasted the Biden administration and leading Democrats for doing too little to satisfy the demand for workers.

The reality is there’s no reason whatsoever to believe that these new Nevadans from Afghanistan have anything but good intentions in coming here. They supported the U.S. military effort in their home country, or they’d have been screened out of relocating, and there are no valid concerns about health issues given the testing they’re receiving. What’s more, they’re no doubt eager to fill some of our many vacant jobs as soon as they can and start following the path of generations of American immigrants who have fashioned better lives here and made positive contributions to their communities, their states and their adopted nation.

To the evacuees who are coming to our state, including the 50 who are coming to Southern Nevada, please know that the majority of Nevadans are delighted to have you here and do not share the state GOP leadership’s ugly, nationalistic mentality.

And to the responsible state leaders and compassionate community social service providers who are helping the newcomers transition to life in Nevada, we commend you.