Arkansas’ Fort Chaffee being considered to house Afghan refugees


FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Fort Chaffee in Fort Smith, Arkansas is being evaluated to potentially house Afghanistan refugees escaping the Taliban.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announced on August 19, the state of Arkansas will accept refugees from Afghanistan that have left the country due to the Taliban takeover.

“Arkansas understands the American responsibility toward those families, those brave people that supported the United States of America in that mission and Arkansas would welcome them as part of the other states that are welcoming those that need a place of refuge,” Hutchinson said.

Arkansas National Guard Soldiers of the 142nd Field Artillery Brigade depart in response to Hurricane Harvey on September 2, 2017, at Fort Chaffee, Fort Smith, Ark. The soldiers will be working alongside civil authorities as part of an integrated Federal/ state/ local response to the storm. (U.S. National Guard photo by Senior Airman Matthew Matlock)

A spokesperson with Congressman Steve Womack’s office said the Arkansas National Guard has been in contact with his office about the evaluation to house Afghan refugees but was not able to provide any additional detail.

“Fort Chaffee is being assessed as a potential Special Immigrant Visa processing site along with three others nationally,” said Lt. Col. Brian Mason, Arkansas National Guard Public Affairs officer. “The Department of Defense, in support of the Department of State, is currently providing temporary housing facilities at Fort McCoy, WI, Fort Bliss, TX, in addition to Fort Lee, VA for Afghan special immigrant visa principal applicants, their families, and other individuals at risk who were recently brought to the U.S.”

Fort Chaffee has been used as recently as 2005 when Hurricane Katrina victims were displaced and housed families, and previously for both Vietnam in 1975 and Cuba immigration processing from 1980 to 1982.

Fort Chaffee was established in western Arkansas in September 1941. Originally designated as Camp Chaffee, the site included 72,000 acres of predominantly farmland.

Canopy NWA, a refugee resettlement site, said the organization is prepared to help Afghan refugees any way it can.

Joanna Krause, executive director of Canopy NWA, said the situation in Afghanistan is dire. Canopy NWA is ready to welcome Afghan refugees to Northwest Arkansas if they come.

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