Baldwin, other Dems visit Fort McCoy, where refugees are being housed

By Scott Hurley and Katrina Nickell, FOX 11 News

FORT McCOY (WLUK) -- U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and a group of Democratic lawmakers visited Fort McCoy Tuesday to learn more about the process of hosting Afghan refugees.

"We got a very detailed description of what's being stood up right now in terms of the processing of folks here and ultimately they'll be traveling to all 50 states," said Baldwin.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) and U.S. Reps. Ron Kind and Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin) deliver remarks on the Afghan refugees housed at Fort McCoy during a visit to the Army installation in southwestern Wisconsin Sept. 7, 2021. (WLUK video)

As of Friday, more than 8,000 refugees were being housed at the Army installation in southwestern Wisconsin. It has the capacity to house as many as 13,000.


Baldwin was joined by U.S. Reps. Ron Kind and Mark Pocan, state Sens. Brad Pfaff and Jeff Smith, and state Reps. Katrina Shankland, Jodi Emerson and Samba Baldeh.

The political leaders were not sure at this time how many refugees will be resettling here in Wisconsin. But, expect the relocation process to begin by this weekend. Fitting the original timeline, of beginning to relocate refugees within two to three weeks after arrival.

"Their preference is to get them reunited with family that may already be over here, that's understandable," said Kind.

The Democrats also assured the vetting process to be multi-layered, and thorough. Many refugees lack proper identification. Republican lawmakers have warned if the process is not careful, there runs a risk of terrorist attacks in America.

The Democrats' visit comes about two weeks after two separate groups of Republican lawmakers visited the fort. U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson led a delegation there on Aug. 25, and Wisconsin's five Republican representatives, including Mike Gallagher and Glenn Grothman, visited two days later.

"It's [vetting] not just being done here. It's being done in Afghanistan and various bases on route. Also, biometrics screening, being extremely effective in that. So it's multilayer, very comprehensive. They are treating it, I'm convinced, very seriously, and that we need to do a proper vetting job behind every person here on base and all our bases," said Kind.

Baldwin, and Pocan also praised the vaccine efforts at Fort McCoy. Saying that they only heard of one refugee refusing a COVID-19 vaccine.

"They're being vaccinated for everything from measles and mumps, all the way to COVID and again getting great reception," said Pocan.

Baldwin said few cases of COVID-19 have been identified on the base. Kind said there has been one case of the measles, and that person-- along with close contacts-- are in quarantine.

Baldwin also says there was an investigation into child brides being brought to America. Baldwin said no marriages of women under 15 were identified at Fort McCoy. The investigation is complete.