by Travis Mateer
When I first posted about the alleged rape involving an Afghan teen and a young Missoula woman, the story explaining the presence of the Afghan teen was that he was just traveling through Missoula. That was the reason for a high bail amount:
At Mohmand’s initial appearance on Tuesday, state prosecution asked for $50,000 bail, citing the extremely serious nature of the allegations and saying he presents a very serious flight risk since he is traveling through Missoula and is not a resident.
The next day after my post, the story about Mohmand being on a “worldwide trip” changed to this:
The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services says an Afghan man arrested last weekend in Missoula is in the country as part of a federal resettlement program.
Jon Ebelt with DPHHS says Zabihullah Mohmand, 19, “was placed in Montana as part of the federal Afghan Placement and Assistance Program.”
Now that Mohmand’s presence in Montana has been explicitly linked to the refugee resettlement program, does Missoula deserve a more detailed accounting of what’s going on with this program?
I know I’ve got some questions about this incident, like who paid for the hotel room? And where did the money come from? Does Mohmand already have a Montana ID? And who is this second dude sharing the hotel room? Does Mohmand have any family he came over with, or is he alone?
I don’t expect we’ll get anything approximating answers to any of these questions, because the program will be in full damage control mode, especially as Montana politicians line up to demand these types of questions receive answers.
Here’s the beginning of the damage control:
DPHHS manages the Montana State Refugee Program. As such, this program is working with individuals arriving in Montana as part of the Afghan Placement and Assistance Program. As of today, 20 individuals (combination of adults and children) are in Montana (Missoula) as part of the Afghan Placement and Assistance Program. This is since late September. To be clear, federal agencies are responsible for the vetting process prior to their arrival,” Ebelt told KECI News in an email.
We reached out to the International Rescue Committee for comment and have not heard back.
Gov. Greg Gianforte, Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Matt Rosendale called for Afghan resettlement efforts to be put on pause because of the case, adding proper vetting for incoming Afghans needs to be conducted.
So, Jon Ebelt wants the focus to be on the federal agencies responsible for the vetting process. While that might be a short-term play to protect Montana’s DPHHS, focusing on the Feds will allow Montana critics of this program to look at other incidents happening, like this local article does at the end:
The incident in Montana follows the assault of a female US soldier by multiple Afghan men at Fort Bliss in New Mexico, as well as the sexual assault of a child and spousal abuse by two Afghan men at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin.
Supporters of relocating Afghan refugees to Montana won’t be able to simply dismiss critics as hateful bigots anymore, especially in Missoula, where our recent history with college rape culture and the criminal justice response has been so atrocious.
It will be interesting to see how this story unfolds. Stay tuned here for more analysis as the damage control develops.