Thousands of Afghans who assisted the US military or who are vulnerable in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan are arriving in the US, where they are staying in military bases, convention centers, and even some community colleges while they await their next move.
However, as they prepare to rebuild their lives in a foreign country, Afghans face a two-pronged problem: attempting to flee their home country safely and then completely restarting their lives in a new home with few personal connections.
For many, the process of getting Afghan nationals out of the country has been fraught with setbacks and issues, ranging from unfinished applicant paperwork to the Taliban barring vulnerable Afghans from reaching Kabul airport. When Afghans arrive in the United States, nonprofit and non-governmental organizations work tirelessly to place them in a community where they can rebuild their lives.
President Joe Biden said the United States is on track to meet an August 31 deadline for evacuating U.S. citizens and others who qualify for U.S. protection. Since August 14, the United States has evacuated or assisted in the evacuation of nearly 90,000 Afghans.
Evacuees from Afghanistan are being flown by the US to countries in Europe and Asia that have agreed to serve as transit hubs. Before being placed on flights to the United States, refugees are subjected to biometric and security screenings by officials from the intelligence, counterterrorism, and law enforcement communities.
All evacuees must be tested for COVID-19 at the airport upon arrival in the United States. According to a senior administration official, the Biden administration will provide vaccinations to them but is still determining how and when those shots will be made available.
After passing the test, American citizens and lawful permanent residents will be able to travel to their destination. All others will be sent to one of four military bases in New Jersey, Virginia, Texas, or Wisconsin, where they will be subjected to a thorough medical examination, given access to other health-care services, and given advice on how to apply for work authorization. The senior administration official could not say how long the evacuees would stay at the military bases, but said the plan is for them to “not be at military installations for months or anything like that.” The plan is to move people as efficiently as possible.”
According to the official, each arriving family will be connected with one of the refugee settlement organizations that work with the federal government to help them settle into their new lives in the United States.
Hefield stated that many aid organizations are currently looking for people to host Afghan families and donate clothing and food. While some activists claim that the goal is to have Afghans back on their feet in three to six months, others believe that the process will be lengthy and difficult.
According to Vignarajah, some Afghans may not have completed the special immigrant visa (SIV) process and will most likely enter the United States through humanitarian parole, which allows those in an emergency situation to temporarily stay in the country. She stated that her organization will provide legal services to Afghans in that situation in the hopes of reclassifying those who are immigrating into a longer-term status.
Hundreds of volunteers have found low-cost apartments or are offering empty rooms in their homes to assist Afghans in settling in, according to Vignarajah. Organizations such as LIRS are also attempting to assist them in settling in by enrolling them in English classes and assisting them in navigating public benefits such as Social Security and Medicaid.
According to Stephen Yale-Loehr, professor of immigration law at Cornell Law School, the United States will see a large number of Afghans attempt to enter the country, and the Biden administration will likely face pressure to make it easier for people at risk to enter the country.
However, Yale-Loehr cautioned that the current options for Afghans are limited or complicated due to the country’s current state. Applying to be a refugee or applying for the SIV program are two options for vulnerable people. The Biden administration has stated that they will remove all American citizens who wish to leave, as well as all legal permanent residents and SIV applicants.