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Afghan refugees welcome in Rhode Island, McKee tells Biden

‘Rhode Island will do its part, as all the states in the country should be doing theirs,’ the governor said.

A man sat on a bus at a processing center for refugees evacuated from Afghanistan at the Dulles Expo Center Tuesday in Chantilly, Va.Joshua Roberts/Getty

PROVIDENCE — Afghan refugees are welcome in Rhode Island, Governor Daniel J. McKee told President Biden in a letter Tuesday.

“Like many people across the world, Rhode Islanders have been deeply troubled and saddened by the tragedy that continues to unfold in Afghanistan,” McKee wrote. “I am writing to let you know that Rhode Island stands ready to welcome Afghan allies and families eager to seek solace and safety in our state — a state that was settled by refugees.”

McKee, a Democrat, noted that Roger Williams founded Rhode Island based on the principles of religious freedom and tolerance.

“As such, the humanitarian crisis that had unfolded in Afghanistan over the past few weeks has been heartbreaking to watch,” he wrote. “It is paramount that the United States work quickly to evacuate and resettle individuals and families who fear retaliation from the Taliban.”

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During his weekly news conference on Tuesday, McKee emphasized the many Afghans risked their lives to help the United States.

“For people who actually put their lives on the line for our country, we need to do our part,” he said. “And Rhode Island will do its part, as all the states in the country should be doing theirs.”

McKee said the Rhode Island National Guard and Major General Christopher P. Callahan are prepared to provide airplanes to transport Afghan refugees to “places where they can be safe” once they arrive in the United States.

McKee told reporters he is not sure how many Afghan refugees might come to Rhode Island. “We certainly wouldn’t bring on more than we can handle,” he said. “That is why I was saying that all 50 states should do their part.”

But, McKee said, “We will provide any resources that we have that can help.” And he said his administration has heard from businesses who say they would employ Afghan refugees if they arrived in Rhode Island.

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In his letter to Biden, McKee asked for guidance on how Rhode Island could help. “To the Afghan citizens fleeing from persecution, we can offer not only a welcoming refuge, but also an opportunity to prosper and contribute to a vibrant community,” he wrote.


Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him @FitzProv.