Obamas, Bushes, Clintons help launch organization to assist Afghan refugees

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WASHINGTON — Former Obama and Bush administration officials are launching a new organization that aims to help streamline the process of driving nearly 65,000 Afghans out of their home country and now making the United States their home.

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welcome america Will bring together top refugee organizations, government and major businesses to engage with Americans on how to help with the resettlement efforts of Afghan refugees.

“America has long been a beacon of hope and refuge for people in search of security,” Cecilia Munoz and John Bridgland, co-presidents of Welcome.US, told Granthshala. “This effort to welcome Afghans who have already contributed so much will enrich all of us with their presence and show the world America at its best.”

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Former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush, former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton, and former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama are honorary co-chairs of the organization.

The United States evacuated Afghanistan last month after nearly 20 years in the country, where authorities evacuated more than 120,000 people from the country. Of the total, about 65,000 were Afghan refugees.

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Many refugees who have come to the United States were applicants of the Special Immigrant Visa Program, a visa for Afghan citizens who helped the United States during the war, or Afghans who are now vulnerable under Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Will be

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Munoz is a former director of the White House Domestic Policy Council under Obama and a former director of the White House Domestic Policy Council under Bridgland Bush.

Former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush, former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton, and former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama are honorary co-chairs of the organization.

The new organization will work with local and state officials, businesses, veterans groups, faith-based organizations and top refugee organizations to connect with Americans about how they can help Afghan refugees who need clothing, food and homes. Because they have brought virtually nothing from their country.

In addition, as part of the organization, there will also be a Welcome Fund, which will provide grants to nonprofits that are working directly with the resettlement of Afghan refugees. Businesses such as Walmart have pledged grants to the group. Starbucks has also said it will donate $350,000 to refugee organizations. Instacart says it will donate 25,000 culturally sensitive meals to Afghans living in the US

Two women tried to escape from Afghanistan. A family fled. One did not.

Although the United States is out of Afghanistan, officials are still working evacuation of US citizens Those left behind, as well as the thousands of Afghan visa applicants who were not deported from the country.

Former Delaware Gov. Jack Merkel, who was temporarily appointed by President Joe Biden to be the point person on the Afghan evacuation to the United States, said Welcome.US will help the resettlement process not only in the short term but will make it more effective. The Afghans also adjusted over the long term. Merkel said rehabilitation would begin “seriously in the coming weeks”.

Merkel noted that Afghans coming to the United States after 20 years have supported the United States in their efforts and said that Americans “know that our Afghan allies will help strengthen our communities, such as refugees and Immigrants are always there.”

Krish O’Mara Wignaraja, president and CEO of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said nine major resettlement agencies were individually working on an emergency response to help resettle Afghans, but now include Americans. There is “single point” to be. .

“This is a historic opportunity for us to do the best of our country to demonstrate to our new Afghan neighbors and the world a collective, bipartisan comprehensive alliance that is coming together to provide essential services,” she said. .

Reach Rebecca Morin on Twitter @RebeccaMorin_

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