Afghan refugees arrive in Arizona; some question security

Arizona has a decades-long history of welcoming refugees, including 1,522 Iraqis in 2009.

Updated: January 27, 2022 - 11:22pm

Afghan refugees fleeing Taliban retribution for aiding America in its war on terror have made their way to Arizona and the valley.

According to the Arizona Refugee Resettlement Program, 365 Afghan refugees have come to the state this month in their search for a new home.

A number of the refugees reportedly were transferred to a former hotel in Scottsdale that previously was a short-term detention facility for asylum-seekers apprehended at the nation’s southern border.

State Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, recorded a video Tuesday from a parking lot adjacent to the facility. He said the community should have been better informed of the arrival of the refugees.

“The public was not made aware of this,” he said. “The only notification that’s been reported was the local school board a week ago, which also didn’t tell residents what was going on.”

Kavanagh worries about how well the refugees were vetted before entering the U.S. to be relocated.

“We don’t know who is coming here, why they’re coming here, and what security precautions are going to be enacted to protect the community,” he said.

The representative told 12News he wasn’t aware of an August announcement from Gov. Doug Ducey and House Speaker Rusty Bowers regarding the state welcoming the U.S.-bound refugees. Ducey and Bowers praised the Afghans in the statement for their critical aid to American soldiers who fought in Afghanistan for years.

“The Afghans fleeing the Taliban regime served alongside America’s military forces and fought for freedom," the statement read. "We’re grateful for their efforts and Arizona wholeheartedly welcomes our fair share of the refugees in our state.”

Arizona has a decades-long history of welcoming refugees from the Middle East and Africa. The state accepted 1,522 Iraqi refugees in 2009, marking the highest number of international refugees from one country accepted into the state by the program in a single year.

The federal government warned the refugees that California – home to the nation’s largest Afghani communities – could be too expensive to settle in.

Others criticized Kavanagh for the video.

“It's fear-mongering like this that makes it dangerous for refugees in our country,” House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, said. “This is unacceptable!”