After chaotic evacuation, last Afghan refugees flee NJ base

Many of the refugees settled in established Afghan communities in Virginia and the surrounding Washington region, as well Northern California and Texas.

After chaotic evacuation, last Afghan refugees flee NJ base

WASHINGTON -- Saturday marked the end of a journey that began with the chaotic evacuation of Kabul back in August.

Afghans who fled their country to the Taliban in September 2015 have begun moving away from military bases and starting new lives in American communities.

Operation Allies Welcome was the largest resettlement of refugees in the United States in many decades and it admitted 76,000 Afghans.

"It's an important milestone in Operation Allies Welcome, but I want to stress the fact that this mission hasn't ended," Krish O'Mara Vignarajah said. She was president and CEO at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (one of nine national resettlement agencies that participated in the effort.

Vignarajah stated that Afghans who remain in Afghanistan but are under Taliban control as well as Americans will need to continue receiving assistance.

She stated that "successful integration and resettlement won't happen in just days or weeks." "Our new Afghan neighbors will need our friendship and support for months and years because they won't be able to overcome the difficulties overnight," she said.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, while the U.S. intends to accept thousands of Afghan refugees in the coming year, they will be arriving in smaller groups and will be accommodated in a facility in an undetermined location.

Housing facilities for refugees at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in central New Jersey will remain open in the interim, the agency said. It was home to the most Afghans with a maximum of 14,500. Fort McCoy, Wisconsin was the next largest base and where the last group left this week.

Afghans were subject to immigration processing and health screening as they waited at the bases for the refugee organizations to place them in communities. This was often for several months. About 40 percent of refugees from New Jersey were children. The New Jersey government established schools to accommodate them.

The lead federal agency, Homeland Security, and resettlement organizations had set the goal to get everyone off the bases by February 15. The lack of affordable housing, cuts to refugee programs under President Donald Trump, and sheer number of refugees made it difficult.

Many of the refugees settled in established Afghan communities in Virginia and the surrounding Washington region, as well Northern California and Texas.

According to data from the State Department, which was obtained by The Associated Press, Arizona, New York and Florida are states where between 1,000-3,000 people have settled.

DHS previously stated that about 40% of Afghans will be eligible for the special immigrant visa. This is for those who served as military interpreters, or in other capacities for the U.S government during America's longest conflict.

The majority of the rest do not have legal residency in the U.S. as they were not admitted under a refugee program, but rather under humanitarian parole, a form of federal authorization that allows them to enter the country under emergency circumstances.

A number of veterans groups and advocates for refugees are urging Congress to grant permanent residency to Afghans with an "Afghan adjustment Act", similar to what was done for Iraqis and Cubans in the past.


 

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