Fiona Harrigan: Why Utah Republicans Bucked Trump and Biden on Afghan Refugees

Assistant Editor Fiona Harrigan explores why the Beehive State might be uniquely suited to welcome Afghan refugees.


In August 2021, President Joe Biden committed the United States to withdrawing combat troops from Afghanistan. After two decades of fighting, U.S. involvement in the war would finally be over. 

A year after the chaotic and violent withdrawal, America's exit from Afghanistan has produced new challenges. Among the biggest is the resettlement of roughly 100,000 Afghan refugees uprooted by the war.

You might assume that there would be a political consensus that the United States had an obligation to help rebuild the lives of its allies. 

But many Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, opposed large-scale resettlement operations. One Republican member of Congress warned that Biden's pullback from Afghanistan could become "an excuse to flood" the U.S. with refugees. 

There was, however, a clear exception to the GOP's opposition: the state of Utah. The state has a Republican governor and a Republican attorney general, and there is a Republican majority in the state Legislature. By one measure, it's the second-most Republican state in the country. Yet, in the aftermath of the Afghanistan troop withdrawal, state and local officials were united in welcoming refugees.

That's the topic of this week's episode of The Reason Rundown With Peter Suderman, featuring Reason Assistant Editor Fiona Harrigan.

Mentioned in this podcast:

"Utah Wants To Help Afghan Refugees Prosper. Will the Federal Government Get in the Way?" by Fiona Harrigan

"U.S. Resumes Refugee Admissions After Temporary Pause," by Fiona Harrigan

"Afghan Interpreters Risked Everything To Help American Soldiers. Now They Might Be Left Behind," by Fiona Harrigan

"The Most American Religion," by McKay Coppins

Audio production and editing by Ian Keyser; produced by Hunt Beaty