Representative Moore & Omar tour Fort McCoy, speak with refugees about needs & next steps
FORT MCCOY, Wis. (WMTV) - Two Democratic lawmakers said their minds are at ease after a private tour of living facilities at Fort McCoy, a week after they called for an investigation into possible mistreatment and claims of inadequate living conditions for the nearly 13,000 Afghan refugees currently housed there.
Milwaukee Congresswoman Gwen Moore and Minnesota State Representative Ilhan Omar toured the military base and spoke with refugees on Saturday, following a call by the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition to investigate these allegations.
“It was for us an interest in doing our oversight work as members of Congress, to try to see what actually was happening here in the military base of Fort McCoy,” said Representative Omar.
Both Representative Omar and Congresswoman Moore said they were impressed with the work military officials have put into making life comfortable for the refugees.
“We were very, very happy when we saw the children running around giving us high fives and fist bumps. That’s how we knew everything was okay,” said Congresswoman Moore.
Representative Omar said many families they spoke with are eager to start their new lives in America and contribute to society.
“I know that there are a lot of people who are fear-mongering for political reasons, but these are probably the safest Americans we can, safest neighbors we can have in our communities and the agencies that are doing this work are trusted,” said Representative Omar.
The base is currently nearing capacity, housing approximately 12,600 refugees right now. Congresswoman Moore said from what she learned during the tour, many of the refugees at Fort McCoy could start resettling in their new homes in the states as soon as mid-November.
“Just on Thursday we passed legislation not only to create actual resources with 6 billion dollars, but also to create a pathway for that status to be adjusted so that when the folks here who don’t have a permanent status but have humanitarian parolee can actually get a status of a refugee resettlement and receive the resources that is necessary for them to adjust to life in America,” said Representative Omar.
Members of the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition joined them for the tour and brought along a truckload of new items including winter coats, baby items, hijabs, and other culturally appropriate clothing.
They also wanted to speak face to face with the Afghan women and let them know they will be welcomed in their new communities.
“We assured them that it’s not just the Muslim community, but across the United States we as a country have opened our arms and we are just simply waiting to learn how we can help them settle and realize their dreams,” said Janan Najeeb, the President of the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition.
Najeeb said these conversations were heart wrenching, but also inspiring.
“These are proud people. These are individuals that have always worked hard. They are high achievers. We met Fulbright’s amongst them, we met every level that you can imagine and one of the things that stayed with me is that they said we’re eager to get out and not be a burden on society, but rather to contribute to society,” told Najeeb.
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