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Congresswomen differ over vetting of 2,000 Afghan refugees at Holloman AFB

ALAMOGORDO, New Mexico - Two of New Mexico's congressional representatives visited Holloman Air Force Base on Tuesday afternoon to observe the living conditions of Afghan refugees.

"There are a lot of little children wearing shirts that had the American flag," said U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell, the Republican congresswoman from southern New Mexico's second congressional district.

RELATED STORY: What challenges do Afghan refugees face if they choose leave Ft. Bliss or Holloman AFB?

“One of the most emotional moments for me was seeing the family with a little boy who was about three years old wearing an American flag coming off the plane," said U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury, the Democrat who represents New Mexico's first congressional district, which is the Albuquerque metro area.

In separate interviews following their tours, both representatives confirmed that the base is sheltering 2,000 refugees. They also said the base has an ability to shelter 5,000 refugees.

For comparison, Fort Bliss has the capacity to shelter 14,000 Afghans, Herrell said.

She had questions about the vetting process.

“We want to make sure the vetting process is complete," Herrell said. "We know that what we’re talking about in some cases takes several months.”

But Stansbury was satisfied by what she saw.

“People have been scanned, their paperwork has been looked at," Stansbury said. "By the time they’re getting here, they’ve already gone through 3 or 4 major stops.”

White House officials had not previously disclosed how many refugees would be sheltered at Holloman. In a call with reporters last month, senior administration officials also would not say how long the base would be used to shelter refugees.

The U.S. is planning to shelter at least 50,000 Afghan refugees at military bases across the country, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has previously said.

Article Topic Follows: New Mexico Politics

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Kate Bieri

Kate Bieri is a former ABC-7 New Mexico Mobile Newsroom reporter and weekend evening newscast anchor.


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