Iowa to see 695 Afghan evacuees arrive

Nationwide first group to include nearly 37,000 arrivals, White House says

Iowa to see 695 Afghan evacuees arrive

Afghan refugees line up for food at a dining hall in the village of Doña Ana in Fort Bliss, New Mexico, where they are staying on September 10. (Associated Press)

WASHINGTON – The Biden administration on Wednesday began briefing governors and refugee coordinators in states across the country of the number of Afghan evacuees among the first group of nearly 37,000 arrivals who are expected to be resettled in their states.

Iowa is expected to accommodate 695 arrivals.

California is expected to receive more arrivals than any other state – more than 5,200 people, according to State Department data for the Afghan Placement and Assistance program obtained by the Associated Press.

Alabama and Mississippi are each expected to host 10, according to US officials. Hawaii, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wyoming and the District of Columbia are not expected to resettle anyone from the first group of evacuees who fled in the final days of the chaotic withdrawal from the United States last month.

The administration has requested funding from Congress to help resettle 65,000 Afghans in the United States by the end of this month and 95,000 by September 2022. President Joe Biden appealed to the former governor of his home state, Delaware, Jack Markell, to serve as his temporary resource person on the resettlement of Afghans evacuated to the United States.

States with historically high numbers of Afghans who have resettled in the United States over the past 20 years – including California, Maryland, Texas and Virginia – are once again hosting a disproportionate number of evacuees, according to the reports. data. Many gravitate to northern Virginia, the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC, and northern California – some of the country’s most expensive housing markets.

Oklahoma, which during the 20-year war had resettled a relatively small number of Afghans, is expected to resettle 1,800 new arrivals.

Many new evacuees have asked to be relocated to these states because they already have family and close friends living in those states, according to two US officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss calls to government officials. of State.

Resettlement agencies also have a significant presence and capacity in many of these states.

The State Department relocated the evacuees based on advice from local affiliates of nine national resettlement agencies with which the U.S. government works, officials said.

Officials said Afghan evacuees are being told that other parts of the country – including areas with plenty of jobs and cheaper housing – could be good places to start their new lives in that country.

Afghan evacuees go through a security screening process coordinated by the Department of Homeland Security before being admitted. And every evacuee that comes to the United States also goes through a health check.

Evacuees aged 12 and over must be vaccinated against COVID-19 as part of their humanitarian parole status after entering the country.

Yet there were unexpected complications.

Flights to the United States for evacuees who were staying temporarily at treatment sites in third countries were halted last week after the discovery of measles cases among several Afghans who had recently arrived in the United States.

Some of the newly arrived Afghans could also face a difficult road if Congress does not take action to treat them as refugees arriving in the United States.

Afghan evacuees are not currently eligible for food stamps, cash assistance through the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program for low-income families, Medicaid, or other traditional services for funded refugees. by the Department of Health and Social Services.

Each Afghan evacuated is currently expected to receive $ 1,225 to help pay for rent, furniture and food, and provide a small amount of pocket money. Biden called on Congress to take action to ensure newcomers have access to the same benefits as refugees.

An official at the Catherine McAuley Center in Cedar Rapids, which added a refugee resettlement program in 2017, as an affiliate site of the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, said Thursday that no official confirmation had been received concerning Afghan arrivals.

States with historically high numbers of Afghans who have resettled in the United States over the past 20 years – including California, Maryland, Texas and Virginia – are once again hosting a disproportionate number of evacuees. Above, Afghan refugees line up for food at a New Mexico dining hall, where they are staying, on September 10. (Associated Press)


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Joseph D. Whitman

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