Who Are The Afghan Refugees And Where Are They Going When They Come To The US?

Kaylee Greenlee on September 6, 2021

It’s unclear how many Afghan refugees arrived in the U.S. recently, though they will mostly stay at military bases as they undergo immigration proceedings, a senior Biden administration official said during a press call last week.

Around 20,000 Afghan refugees now stay at eight military bases across the continental U.S., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said on Wednesday. The Biden administration warned nine nonprofit organizations contracted with the State Department that work with refugees to prepare for up to 50,000 Afghans to arrive in the U.S. without visas and in need of resettlement, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

“After getting tested (for COVID-19) at the airport, American citizens and LPRs (legal permanent residents) can head to their onward destination — home — while others — everyone else heads to those military bases I mentioned before,” the senior official said during a press call on Aug. 24. “There, they receive a full medical screening, and they receive a variety of healthcare services and assistance in applying for things like work authorizations, before moving on to their next destination.”

“Each of those arriving families will be connected with one of the refugee resettlement organizations that our government partners with and that do such extraordinary work to help individuals, exactly like this, begin and settle into new lives in America,” the senior official added.

Afghan refugees passed security and health screenings before they entered the U.S. or matched with nonprofits, according to the senior administration official. Afghans who are “far enough along” in the Special Immigrant Visa process came to the U.S. with American citizens, green card holders and some vulnerable individuals, the official said.

“Many Afghan refugees assisted allied forces and have passed through a vetting process to address the threat to public safety,” Orlando, Florida, Police Chief Orlando Rolón said in a statement to the Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force (LEITF) on Wednesday.

“Refugees are often forced to leave their home countries when there is a significant threat for basic human rights as we know them,” Rolón added. “By working together to welcome and build trust with these newcomers, we can in fact make our communities safer.”

Some 5,000 Afghan refugees will temporarily stay at Camp Atterbury, an old Army base near Edinburgh, Indiana, now used for training by the Indiana National Guard, the Center Square reported.

Around 100 Afghan refugees will stay in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where nonprofit Bethany Christian Services will work with local churches and landlords to find temporary housing for the families and allies, WWMT reported. The nonprofit will also help to connect refugees with employers, tutors and transportation.

The first group of refugees arrived in Arizona on Aug. 29 and more were expected to resettle in the state, ABC 15 reported. The El Calvario Methodist Church is helping thousands of Afghan refugees across New Mexico by collecting hygiene kits, snacks and clothing including scarves to make the refugees feel welcome, according to KFOX 14.

“I think it’s very important to show them that they’re welcomed, especially after they’ve gone through this really challenging process,” said Sam Amick, who traveled from Atlanta to help the church with refugee outreach, KFOX 14 reported.

The Catholic Charities of San Antonio, Texas, will host around 350 Afghan refugees, according to KENS 5. The charities will work with religious groups in the city to provide the refugees with food, clothing, housing and other settlement needs.

Spokane, Washington, will take in between 200 and 300 refugees, said Mark Finney, director of World Relief Spokane, after meeting with Afghans living in the area whose relatives and friends were evacuated from Afghanistan, The Spokesman-Review reported.

Kentucky-based nonprofits expect to help nearly 800 Afghans, said Kentucky Office for Refugees Assistant Director Maria Koerner, according to the Courier Journal. Organizations in Louisville, Lexington, Bowling Green and Owensboro each expect to assist more than 100 Afghan refugees.

The Afghans arriving in Kentucky entered the U.S. as part of the Afghan Parolee Support program without visas or refugee status, the Courier Journal reported.

At least 34 Afghans arrived in the U.S. as unaccompanied minors, some of whom were sent to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shelters, according to CBS News.


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