Yesterday’s Ogden editorial, “WVa. a Welcome Home for Refugees,” begins by telling us what the WV legislature did at the end of their most recent legislative session:
Among the last resolutions adopted by West Virginia lawmakers before the end of this year’s regular legislative session was one urging President Joe Biden to expedite entrance of Ukrainian refugees into the U.S., and welcoming those people to the Mountain State.
That’s because, West Virginians
“are always willing to welcome new folks. . . . This is a West Virginia trait that does not differ based on the letter someone chooses to put after his or her last name. If someone needs our help, we give it.”
The editorial then quotes various state politicians who support that message including Democratic state senator Stephen Baldwin:
We give you the shirt off our back. We welcome you to sit on the porch. We invite you to dinner.
”Always willing”? What was WV’s response to the Afghans who wanted to immigrate to the United States as the Taliban took over their country?
Last summer, as the United States left Afghanistan to the Taliban, thousands of Afghans, many of whom had worked for the United States government, left Afghanistan for the United States. How did West Virginia react? How “welcoming” was the state? Here, according to figures cited by Axios, is where the first wave of Afghans headed:
At the time, our local Ogden papers said nothing about encouraging possible migration to West Virginia while Senator Shelley Moore Capito, one of the Biden administration’s harshest critics on the pullout voted against providing money for resettlement and against expediting the immigration process. And when our governor was asked about accepting Afghans, Jim Justice replied that “it was a decision for later.” (Later never came.) I think that it is fair to write that Ogden and our political leaders did nothing to encourage Afghan immigration.*
After reading yesterday’s editorial, I decided to follow-up on those posts. Three weeks ago, CBS News did an excellent analysis of which states have welcomed the Afghan settlers. They also included this excellent map of where 67,380 of the Afghans have settled:
(Click on the tweet to get to the article.)
The size of the circle is proportional to the number of refugees accepted. The largest is Texas at 10,500, followed by California at 8,300, and Virginia at 5,200. If you click on WV at the site, you learn that we’ve accepted 5 evacuees or 0.0074% of the total.
I realize there are major differences between what happened in Afghanistan and what is currently happening in the Ukraine. But both created refugees who are fleeing for their lives and ought to be welcomed to West Virginia. Our legislators and Ogden Newspapers tell us that West Virginian’s welcome Ukrainian immigration because that’s who we are. But both of them (along with prominent politicians) were silent on the plight of the Afghan refugees. Perhaps, their unwillingness to support the Afghans also reflects who we are?
Are we “always willing to welcome new folks”? Honestly answering that question might make a good editorial. I don’t think we’ll see it, however.
*The media were largely silent. One notable exception was Hoppy Kercheval. In Mid-August, he wrote:
Why Can’t West Virginia Be Home For Afghan Refugees?
If you check-out his article, be sure to read the comments section. I think it provides some insight as to why the state’s politicians have not embraced the idea.