Indiana has captured part of the national spotlight following the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, playing host to more than 6,000 refugees airlifted out of the country as it fell back to Taliban control in late August/early September.
Hoosiers should not only welcome this group of people fleeing dangerous conditions in their homeland in the short-term, but embrace and hope to add them to communities across our state long-term, too.
Unfortunately some are already seeking to make these Afghans their next political football.
Some politicians were screaming at the top of their lungs a month ago that America needed to get everyone out of Afghanistan, sharing photos of overstuffed cargo planes and desperate Afghans running alongside and clinging to planes — some later falling to their deaths as the planes left the ground.
Now that the time for trying to rack up political points for a bad withdrawal from Afghanistan is over, those same political types have since turned on the very Afghans they were shouting to rescue, now stoking unfounded fears about who ended up here and playing into typical anti-Muslim tropes.
Predictable, and despicable.
Indiana should instead view the arrival of new refugees as an opportunity to bolster and improve the Hoosier state.
Ball State economist Michael Hicks, a retired Army reservist, noted the the Afghans arriving are not only America-friendly from aiding the U.S. during its 20-year mission in their homeland, but also made up of many well-educated family units.
“The Afghans now relocating to America may be the second-best educated group in history. This more resembles the European Jewish diaspora of the 1930s than any other period of immigration. Our enlightened economic self-interest should push us to welcome these families into our communities,” Hicks wrote in his recent column.
The 2020 Census showed that Indiana, like most states, lost population across most of its rural area, and you can’t have ears nowadays without hearing some employer somewhere complaining that they can’t find anyone to hire for open positions.
Afghans could also introduce new diversity into many non-diverse Hoosier landscapes and eventually establish an immigrant community that will not only grow on its own but could become a beacon long-term for other legal migration. Indiana already has immigrant communities like that in patches across the state, such as Burmese in Fort Wayne or Sikhs in central Indiana.
Even our local area has become host to a growing community, as many Arabic-speaking families live in Noble County and attend East Noble schools. Although those families draw roots from different nations, they could perhaps offer at least a compatible shared culture that might be welcoming to resettling Afghan refugees.
Surely not all of the Camp Atterbury refugee group will stay in our state, but as they go through entry procedures and vetting and get set up in America, we should welcome and support families as they start new lives in our country.
Aside from the basic humanitarian benefit of helping refugees in need, Afghans can offer economic, cultural and growth benefits to many ailing Hoosier communities in need of an injection of new people.
Northeast Indiana should welcome the assist Afghans if the opportunity presents itself.
OUR VIEW is written on a rotating basis by Grace Housholder, Andy Barrand, Michael Marturello and Steve Garbacz. We welcome readers’ comments.