Top Republican lawmaker questions plans to put Afghan evacuees in Kansas

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In this image provided by the U.S. Air Force, a U.S. Air Force Airman guides evacuees aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021. (Senior Airman Taylor Crul/U.S. Air Force via AP)

TOPEKA, Kan. — A top Republican lawmaker in Kansas said Wednesday that he’s concerned about President Joe Biden’s plan to resettle almost 500 Afghan evacuees in the state because he doesn’t know how well they’re being vetted.

Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson said he’s worried both that the evacuees could come to Kansas with COVID-19 infections and that vetting by Biden’s administration won’t keep terrorists or terrorist sympathizers out.

Masterson’s remarks could signal wariness within the GOP-controlled Legislature about Kansas taking evacuees. The Biden administration began notifying governors Wednesday of where it plans to resettle nearly 37,000 Afghan evacuees, and 490 are set to come to Kansas.

Masterson said he’s “all for taking care of those in trouble.”

But the Andover Republican also told The Associated Press: “If there was no real vetting, it could be dangerous to have them in our state.”

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s office declined comment. However, she pledged last month that Kansas “would welcome refugees and families who supported American troops, our operations, and our cause” during the 20-year war in Afghanistan.

In 2016, then-Republican Gov. Sam Brownback withdrew Kansas from the federal government’s refugee resettlement program when then-President Barack Obama pledged to take 10,000 people fleeing Syria’s civil war.

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