The Biden administration and more than 200 private institutions are eager to establish a system to resettle tens of thousands of Afghans, many of whom fled their country with only their clothes.
According to a department official, as the relocation of communities across the country unfolds in the coming months, the State Council plans to spend as much as US$2,275 for each evacuee. The money will be used for housing, food, other necessities and children’s schooling.
“This is different from usual. We are not ready. We have never done anything like this before,” said Chris George, executive director of Integrated Refugee and Immigration Services in New Haven, Connecticut. “But we will be prepared. If it’s not perfect, it doesn’t matter, because this is an emergency.”
After former President Donald Trump drastically reduced the number of refugees allowed to enter the United States and severely restricted those allowed to enter, the influx will test the ability of the U.S. government and private groups to provide assistance. President Joe Biden vowed to rebuild this system.
As many as 50,000 evacuees will arrive under so-called humanitarian parole, which is a stopgap measure that allows them one year to apply for permanent visas. Other Afghans, including those who work directly for the US government, will be classified into different immigration categories.
The Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Majorcas, said on Friday that the United States has accepted approximately 40,000 people evacuated from Afghanistan, of which 31,600 are special immigrant visa holders, special immigrant visa applicants or other Vulnerable Afghan nationals released on humanitarian parole.
The official said that the State Department is negotiating with Congress on whether Afghans are eligible for federal benefits, including Medicaid. According to an immigration director familiar with the matter, people on humanitarian parole will be eligible for federally funded health insurance by the end of September.
George said he recently hired two real estate agents to rent apartments in Hartford and New Haven, even before his organization received notice of arrival-for non-profit organizations that usually rely on their housing coordinators. This is an unprecedented step.
He added that he also hired an education coordinator to register the children and arrange counseling.
He and other organizations plan to recruit volunteers to help them decorate apartments, pick up family members, and even provide spare rooms in their homes.
“We have seen unprecedented private support, but this does not make up for the difference,” said Mark Hertfield, chief executive of the Hebrew Immigration Assistance Association, which has been relocating Afghans in upstate New York.
Large companies are also involved. Airbnb Inc. has pledged to provide temporary housing for 20,000 displaced Afghans around the world, and Walmart Inc. has pledged to provide aid groups with $1 million.
Airbnb spokesperson Chris Lehane said: “In order to deal with issues of this magnitude and scope, we will do something that will disrupt the way we have done things in the past.” “We are using the infrastructure of a technology platform to integrate. Help and hope to liberate NGOs and the government so that people can find jobs and find permanent housing.”
Although housing and food are the most pressing priorities, newcomers must also find work.
Houston medical device manufacturer Texas Medical Technology said this week that the company plans to recruit 5 of 100 Afghans in various positions, including textiles and engineering, in the next 12 months.
“The demand is there,” said Sean Rybar, co-owner of the company. “We need workers, so we open our arms to refugees.”