Inside Fort McCoy: Afghan refugees wait for resettlement in U.S.
Afghan refugees at Fort McCoy grateful, anticipate future in their new country
FORT MCCOY, Wis. (WKBT) – Fort McCoy is preparing Afghan refugees for resettlement across the United States. Thursday, officials allowed a handful of journalists inside the base to see the daily life of refugees in Wisconsin.
Right now, Afghans are in the process of completing their immigration paperwork so they can find a place to call home. The base can hold 13,500 people with about 12,600 there right now. Tomah’s population is 9,500 to give some perspective.
Leaders at the base gave journalists a guided tour where military leaders showed us what they wanted us to see. When touring the dining facility, it appears the food has improved.
News 8 Now received complaints from one Afghan refugee about not receiving enough food a couple of weeks ago. We were told today the four dining facilities serve about 40,000 meals per day.
One military official said Hurricane Ida impacted supplies for meals, but she said they were able to fix the problem. Another question raised was safety after a grand jury indicted two refugees last week on crimes related to sexual assault and violence. Leaders said these are isolated incidents and that crime remains low at the base.
“Our Afghan friends are expected to abide by the laws of the United States and the overwhelming majority continue to do so,” said Gen. Christopher Norrie, the task force commander. “They are considerate neighbors, and we all feel very safe here at Fort McCoy.”
Many of these people came over here with just the clothes on their backs. Winter weather is approaching. Team Rubicon leads a donation warehouse of donated clothes and coats for refugees. However, only about 4,500 Afghans have received coats so far, but leaders anticipate everyone will receive a coat.
Military leaders say refugees are vaccinated for COVID-19 and other diseases. They are working with local hospitals in Madison and La Crosse for people who need healthcare off the base.
There are about 230 pregnant women at the base. Those newborns will automatically become U.S. citizens because they will be born on U.S. soil.
About half of the Afghans living at Fort McCoy are children. There are open spaces for kids to play. Afghan professors have volunteered to teach the children English on site. One Afghan refugee said he has a future because he was able to leave Afghanistan.
“Yeah, that’s my great anguish. You know, that’s what I think about, my future,” said Nasir, a former Afghan Interpreter. “Like, there was no guarantee for my family future in Afghanistan, now I hope for the good future of my family in America.”
For now, it really is a waiting game for refugees at the base. This is where they will live until their immigration paperwork is finalized. One refugee said officials have not given a timeline on that process.
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