Sen. Baldwin and fellow Democrats visit Fort McCoy
According to Sen. Baldwin’s office, they will speak with Afghan evacuees about their experience at Fort McCoy
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin’s office announced in a release Monday that Sen. Baldwin along with seven of her colleagues will be visiting Fort McCoy Tuesday.
Representatives Ron Kind and Mark Pocan, State Senators Brad Pfaff and Jeff Smith and State Representatives Katrina Shankland, Jodi Emerson and Samba Baldeh joined Sen. Baldwin in touring the facilities.
Additionally, the representatives and lawmakers will be briefed on Afghan evacuee operations, planning and medical processing by federal personnel with Operations Allies Welcome.
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI 2nd District) said he was looking forward to meeting with military personnel and refugee families.
“Many of these Afghans and their families at Fort McCoy put their lives on the line for American troops during the war,” said Pocan. “We owe it to them to ensure they are well equipped to become parts of our community.”
After touring the facilities, lawmakers said they are impressed with operations on the base and proud of the way the state and local communities have embraced Afghan evacuees.
Lawmakers shared only a handful of evacuees have been resettled, but they expect that number to jump significantly by the end of the week as more refugees are processed.
“There’s been a call put out to 50,000 sponsors, that’s what they want to get to, and they’re hoping that’ll start ramping up by the end of this week and hopefully be working very smoothly thereafter,” Baldwin said.
Lawmakers said Fort McCoy is trying to process people within three weeks. Fort McCoy officials told NBC15 the timeline does depend on each person or family. Any relatives or connections already living in the U.S. will also be taken into account when placing refugees.
“I think I’ve heard this from all my colleagues, state and federal, that communities across Wisconsin are really, really hoping that a lot of these refugees will stay here,” Baldwin explained.
Democratic lawmakers also addressed questions on health concerns at the base. They shared refugees are being tested regularly for COVID-19. Only a handful have tested positive, and they have been provided quarantine facilities.
Refugees are also being offered vaccinations against COVID-19 and other diseases like measles. Lawmakers said vaccination rates are at nearly 100 percent.
“Not only is everyone getting vaccinated, but I think they actually told us one person refused a COVID shot. I wish we had anything like that in our country right now,” Pocan said.
Senator Baldwin also said any claims that refugees have not been properly vetted are false. Lawmakers explained evacuees went through several steps before even reaching the U.S.
Republican state lawmakers, including Senator Ron Johnson and State Senator Howard Marklein, visited Fort McCoy around two weeks ago. They raised some concerns about national security and the vetting process, but also praised the military’s efforts to welcome refugees.
“I appreciate the hard work, effort, compassion and hospitality that the men and women at Fort McCoy are providing to thousands every day,” said Marklein. “If you are able to contribute, donate or volunteer, please consider participating in this effort. It is a great opportunity to extend Wisconsin hospitality to those who need it most.”
The state Department of Children and Families shared how residents can help refugees and their families.
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