White House takes unprecedented steps to allow private citizens to sponsor Afghan refugees

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The move is the biggest change in the resettlement program since 1980, when modern infrastructure to accept refugees was put in place.

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Now, to increase evacuation options, the Biden administration is launching a program that will give veterans the opportunity to bring Afghans as well as others to their cities and serve as a support network as they begin their lives. let’s begin. America, former Delaware Gov. Jack Merkel told Granthshala.

“This is just an amazing opportunity, frankly, to do what our veterans are asking us to do, which is to provide a safe and dignified welcome to Afghans who serve on our behalf in Afghanistan, and who Now want to make my living here,” said Merkel, a Democrat and the floating point person overseeing the Afghan evacuation resettlement effort for the administration.

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Veterans working closely with Afghans who fled Afghanistan fearing retaliation from the Taliban for their work with the US underscored the importance of connecting evacuees with people with shared experience.

Matt Zeller, a security fellow at the Truman National Security Project, said, “We’ve been there. We understand what it’s like to come through that experience and then drop ourselves into this environment and how obviously overwhelming it can be. Is.” He said he was ready to open his home to Afghans and their families.

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Zeller is scrambling to meet an Afghan interpreter he spoke with before the fall of Kabul and help him evacuate. “He calls me his guardian angel,” Zeller said, ready to house the interpreter and his family. “I just want to hug her.”

Zeller, who served in Afghanistan, said, “The make-or-break factor between endemic poverty and making it in the U.S. is whether or not you have a veteran helping you. And the quicker the process, the better.” Only he succeeds.”

how it works

Refugee agencies have previously discussed the idea of ​​private sponsorship. The way the system currently works is that an agency would typically have a local office – or a network of community groups – that would introduce refugees to their new environment and set them up with housing and jobs, among other services. will help.

But after four years of historic low arrivals under the Trump administration, agencies have had to close some of their offices across the country where refugees can be relocated – a significant barrier at a time when housing options are already hard to come by. come.

“After the beatings we suffered under the Trump administration, we didn’t have the capacity,” said Mark Hetfield, president and chief executive officer of HIAS, the refugee resettlement agency. “Necessity is the mother of invention. It is the result of that.”

A sponsorship-like system is intended to allow more flexibility and open up more places for refugees to go. But it is up to the people to sign up and the resources to support the Afghans and their families.

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

Danielle Grigsby, co-founder and director of external affairs at Community Sponsorship Hub, said, “It’s providing this opportunity for communities who said they wanted to stand up, wanted to stand up. That’s it. It’s welcoming. The desire is to maximize.” . The Hub will largely be responsible for this process, but other organizations will also assist, including Airbnb.org, International Rescue Committee, Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services and Welcome.US.

The administration has already made some changes to address location constraints, such as allowing resettlement groups to keep Afghans and their families outside the normal 100-mile radius of the local resettlement office.

The new initiative, however, will allow groups of up to five individuals over the age of 18 to apply as a so-called sponsor circle. According to Grigsby, as part of that application, they will undergo background checks, commit to fundraising for up to 90 days of financial aid, complete training and develop a plan for the family.

If approved, that group would be responsible for protecting housing, helping refugees access benefits available through the federal government such as medical services, and helping children enroll in school, among other responsibilities. Grigby said sponsors can keep Afghans in their homes, although it is encouraged to stay for a temporary period unless it is a relative.

“The housing issue is certainly a challenging one. Every American knows that housing is expensive and in short supply,” Merkel said.

“We have been very fortunate that many organizations like Airbnb have stepped in. And these sponsorship circles, because they are so rooted in their communities, will benefit from getting to know those communities and finding additional housing opportunities.” added.

Grant

The groups will also be responsible for raising funds to set up refugees in their community. Typically, the federal government provides a one-time payment of $2,275 for each Afghan agency, of which $1,225 is available to agencies for direct assistance such as housing and basic necessities, including furniture and silverware. The other bulk of the funds are used to cover administrative costs. Afghans will still be eligible for federal benefits. Sponsor circles must raise the same amount — $2,275 — privately.

Merkel declined to say when the military bases would be cleared. But veterans are getting worried to see the Afghans move to their next location.

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

“I am very well qualified to help them because I was very deeply involved with coordinating other resource groups and I have a really great network,” said Tamayo, who served with the US military and served in Houston. is located in, told Granthshala.

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

Referring to August 15, Babiki said, “On the 15th he wrote me a very nice note.” “He basically said goodbye.” Her interpreter and her family were eventually able to evacuate and are now at Fort Pickett in Virginia, ready to relocate with relatives in Virginia.

It’s not just giants lined up to help. Refugees with shared experiences are also uniting to support Afghans when they are evacuated from bases in Washington state, including a group of Vietnamese Americans.

The last time the US had evacuated in such numbers in such a short period was the withdrawal of US forces from Vietnam, when more than 130,000 people arrived in the US in an eight-month period.

Uyen Nguyen said, “Our goal is to provide a ally-ship between the Vietnamese community and the Afghan community. And using our shared refugee experience, not only to help the Afghan community, but to advocate for what they are doing. and what will they do?” , Co-Founder of Viets4Afghans Group.

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

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Credit : www.cnn.com

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