After worldwide reaction over recent negative comments regarding the resettlement of Afghan refugees in Missoula by U.S. House Representative Matt Rosendale, donations to help house and feed Afghan refugees in Missoula have topped $35,000.

Here are Congressman Rosendale's initial comments from September 16:

"Today I learned that 75 refugees from Afghanistan will be arriving in Montana. I strongly oppose the resettlement of these Afghan nationals in Montana. Following the Biden Administration’s disastrously mismanaged withdrawal from Afghanistan, I warned that we could not use this Administration’s incompetence to justify flooding our communities with unvetted refugees. The traditional vetting process for these individuals is a 14-step procedure that takes well over a year. The mass evacuation of over 100,000 Afghan nationals in a matter of weeks has made proper vetting of these individuals nearly impossible. At this time, it appears extremely unlikely the Biden Administration properly vetted the Afghan nationals being resettled in Montana. I have advocated that we should try and settle these individuals in other countries around Afghanistan that share their values and culture, especially if we can not ensure proper vetting. As elected officials, it is our duty to protect the citizens we represent—and I will not allow this Administration to compromise the safety of Montanans."

KGVO News spoke with Mary Poole, Executive Director of Soft Landing Missoula after she sent out a celebratory letter to supporters of the organization.

“When we got the opportunity through a Twitter storm that happened due to Representative Rosendale’s comments, we just we woke up in the morning and people from 23 different states and Great Britain had donated over $10,000 to Soft Landing,” said Poole. So we took that $10,000 and seeded this fund because that goes directly to support new Afghan arrivals, and in just a couple of weeks our community not only matched that, but then matched it again and in the end, as of last week, we landed with $35,000.”

Poole described the process of how the Afghan refugees will settle in Missoula.

“When they get here, when they arrive in Missoula, they arrive basically with the same status and eligibility criteria as a refugee,” she said. “Their process has been a little bit different to get here. It happened quicker due to the crisis in Afghanistan, but all of the same vetting procedures and medical appointments have still happened. It's just been expedited, again because of the dire aspect of the situation.”

Poole said the ‘humanitarian parolees’ will arrive in Missoula singly and in families.

“The first two folks will come as individuals, and they have families that are currently stuck in Kabul,” she said.  “That's going to be a really long process for them for family reunification. But there will also be families that were able to get out together that will be coming to Missoula, but the first couple of folks we've seen, again due to just the urgency of the situation and how difficult it was to leave Afghanistan are coming as individuals.”

With housing in Missoula at a premium, Poole said Soft Landing has been able to offer creative solutions to housing Afghan families thanks to the special circumstances of their escape from their country.

“The Afghan arrivals are able to have a little bit more creative solutions for housing so they're able to stay in homes with people who have offered up rooms in their homes,” she said. “And currently, Airbnb also has offered reimbursement for people with Airbnb’s to house Afghan refugees. So that's been a really incredible partnership for the International Rescue Committee.”

Poole said Soft Landing is helping the 75 Afghan humanitarian parolees, as well as the 150 other refugee arrivals that she said they are likely to see coming to Missoula.

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