White House allows Afghan refugees to be supported by private individuals

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The move marks the biggest change to the resettlement program since 1980, when the modern infrastructure to accommodate refugees was created.

Now, to increase opportunities for evacuees, the Biden government is launching a program that would allow veterans with ties to Afghans and others to take them to their cities and serve as a support network when they finish their lives in the U.S. former Delaware governor Jack Markell told CNN.

“This is simply a great opportunity to do, frankly, what our veterans have asked us to do, to welcome Afghans who have served by our side in Afghanistan and who now want to build their own lives here, safely and with dignity. “” Said Markell, a Democrat and temporary contact who oversees the relocation efforts of the Afghan evacuees for the government.

Veterans who have worked closely with Afghans who fled Afghanistan for fear of Taliban reprisals for their work with the US underscored the importance of pairing evacuees with people with shared life experiences.

“We have been there. We understand what it’s like to come out of that experience and then find yourself in this environment and how frankly it can be overwhelming, ”said Matt Zeller, a security officer with the Truman National Security Project. who added that he was ready to open his home to Afghans and their families.

Zeller urges to meet an Afghan interpreter with whom he spoke before the fall of Kabul and helped with the evacuation. “He calls me his guardian angel,” said Zeller, adding that he was ready to accommodate the interpreter and his family. “I just want to hug him.”

“The deciding factor between endemic poverty and its creation in America is whether or not you have a veteran endorsement. And the earlier this happens, the more successful, ”said Zeller, who served in Afghanistan.

How it works

Refugee organizations have already discussed the idea of ​​private sponsorship. The system currently works in such a way that an agency usually has to have a local office – or a network of community groups – that familiarizes refugees with their new surroundings and helps them find accommodation and work, among other things.

But after four years of historically low arrivals under the Trump administration, authorities have had to close some of their offices across the country to restrict refugee resettlement – a significant hurdle at a time when housing is already hard to come by.

“We just didn’t have the capacity after the beating we suffered under the Trump administration,” said Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of HIAS, a refugee resettlement agency. “Necessity makes inventive. That is the result.”

A sponsorship-like system should allow more flexibility and open more places to stay for refugees. But it depends on people signing up and having the funds to support Afghans and their families.

The administration works with the Community Sponsorship Hub, a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Inc.

“It features communities that said they want to stand up, stand up. That is the point. It’s about maximizing that wave of welcome, ”said Danielle Grigsby, co-founder and external affairs director for the Community Sponsorship Hub. The hub will be largely responsible for the process, but other organizations will also help, including Airbnb.org, the International Rescue Committee, Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services, RefugeePoint, and Welcome.US.

The government has already made some changes to resolve location restrictions, such as:

The new initiative would also make it possible for groups of five people over the age of 18 to apply as a so-called group of sponsors. As part of that application, they’ll go through background checks, commit to fundraising to fund the evacuees for up to 90 days, receive training, and develop a plan for the family, Grigsby said.

If this is approved, this group will be responsible, among other things, for securing accommodation, assisting refugees with access to services that are available to them through the federal government, such as medical services, and helping, among other things, with the schooling of children. Sponsors can accommodate Afghans in their homes, although it is recommended for a temporary period unless it is a relative, Grigsby said.

“The housing issue is certainly a challenge. Every American knows housing is expensive and scarce, ”said Markell.

“We were very fortunate to have a number of organizations like Airbnb. And because they are so rooted in their communities, these sponsor groups have the advantage of knowing these communities and finding additional housing options. ”

financing

The groups will also be responsible for raising funds to house refugees in their community. Typically, the federal government pays a one-time payment of $ 2,275 for every Afghan an agency serves, of which $ 1,225 is available for direct assistance such as housing and basic needs, including furniture and cutlery. The other part of the money is used to cover administrative costs. Afghans are still entitled to state benefits. The sponsoring circles must raise the same amount – 2,275 USD – privately.

Markell didn’t want to say when the military bases would be evacuated. But veterans are excited to see how the Afghans move to their next location.

Christina Tamayo, an Allied Airlift 21 representative who helped evacuate Afghans from Afghanistan, told CNN she was ready to help an Afghan and his family who are on a base in New Mexico.

“I’m very well qualified to help them because I’ve been so deeply involved in coordinating other resource groups and having a really great network,” Tamayo, who served in the US Army and is based in Houston, told CNN .

Kristen Babicki, an Air Force veteran who served in Afghanistan in 2009, recently reunited with her interpreter at a military base in Virginia after his scary last days in Kabul. Like many who worked with or on behalf of the US government, the return of the Taliban put their lives at risk.

“He wrote me a really nice message on the 15th,” said Babicki, referring to August 15th when the evacuation was in progress. “He basically said goodbye.” Your interpreter and his family were eventually able to evacuate and are now at Fort Pickett, Virginia, relocating with relatives in Virginia.

It’s not just veterans who line up to help. Refugees with shared experiences also band together to aid Afghans once they leave bases, including a group of Vietnamese Americans in Washington state.

The last time the US relocated nearly as many evacuees in such a short period of time was after US troops withdrew from Vietnam, when more than 130,000 people entered the US over an eight-month period.

“Our goal is to create an ally between the Vietnamese and Afghan communities. And to use our shared refugee experience not only to help the Afghan community, but to stand up for what they go through and will go through,” said Uyen Nguyen, the co-founder of the Viets4Afghans group.

Nguyen and four others have already started a group and are ready to sponsor Afghans in Washington state.


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