The new 9/11 legacy: Afghanistan’s refugee crisis


Tens of thousands of Afghans have arrived in the U.S. over the last several weeks, but President Biden needs Congress’ help to provide them needed care and expedited immigration pathways.

Why it matters: These refugees will be one of the lasting legacies of 9/11 and the 20-year war in Afghanistan that ended with America’s withdrawal last month.

Now, the administration and a network of refugee groups are scrambling to help Afghans still trying to get out, who were caught up in a slow, outdated immigration system.

  • The rapid fall of Kabul and a cumbersome Special Immigrant Visa process left behind most Afghans who assisted the U.S. military in a country now controlled by the Taliban.

Meanwhile, former President Trump’s deliberate slowdown of the U.S. refugee resettlement program, plus legal and logistical hurdles, make it difficult to get care and benefits to tens of thousands of Afghans who have already arrived.

What to watch: The administration expects 65,000 Afghans to have arrived by the end of September, plus as many as 30,000 more over the course of the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. That’s on top of other Afghans who may be resettled as formal refugees after fleeing to third countries, which is a separate process.

  • Many Afghans are being let into the country using a “parole” designation, which quickly allows them to live in the U.S. but comes with none of the benefits that are provided to resettled refugees or asylum recipients.
  • This week the administration asked Congress to create new pathways to citizenship, options for providing refugee-like benefits to these Afghans, and $6.4 billion in emergency funds.

In the meantime, non-governmental resettlement agencies have been asked by the federal government to help.

  • Without congressional action, “there’s no obvious source of money to help assist the parolees who are coming in,” Refugees International president Eric Schwartz told reporters on Wednesday.
  • The State Department has managed to provide some resources for groups for the first 90 days, which amount to $2,275 per refugee.
  • But some agencies usually spend an average of $5,000-$7,000 on each refugee they help resettle, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service president Krish O’Mara Vignarajah told Axios.

Don’t forget: Trump drastically cut the number of refugees resettled in the U.S. That forced the closure of more than 100 offices for refugee resettlement, O’Mara Vignarajah said.

  • And the Department of Health and Human Services agency that typically provides funds for resettling refugees has also been dealing with significantly higher numbers of migrant kids crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

What’s they’re saying: For all of the logistical troubles, several refugee advocates who spoke with Axios were effusive about the support they’ve received from Americans.

  • “I’ve never seen the outpouring of support we’ve experienced in the last couple weeks,” said O’Mara Vignarajah, citing more than 43,000 volunteers who signed up in two weeks. “To me, that is America at its best.”

Source link


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here