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Biden Admin Telling Refugee Groups to Prep for 50k Afghans without Visas

Afghans are escorted to a bus taking them to a refugee processing center upon arrival at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, August 24, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The Biden administration has reportedly told refugee resettlement organizations across the U.S. to prepare to assist as many as 50,000 Afghans who will be arriving to the U.S. in the coming weeks without visas.

The U.S. government has not provided exact figures on how many Afghans the organizations should expect to help or how quickly they will arrive, said leaders from some of the nine nonprofit organizations that are contracted with the U.S. State Department to assist refugees with finding homes, jobs and other social services, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The groups have not been told which of the impending arrivals will come with approved Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) that will allow them to receive a slew of services, including months of healthcare and food assistance. 

For Afghans who arrive without visas, resettlement will rely instead on private donations, the report says. These people will be allowed to enter the U.S. as part of an immigration program known as humanitarian parole that grants people temporary permission to enter the country. 

People who enter under humanitarian parole are not entitled to resettlement benefits set aside for formal refugees. 

“We’re going to make it work, no matter how difficult, but I’d be lying to you if I said we aren’t concerned,” Mark Hetfield, president of HIAS, one of the contracted resettlement agencies, told the Journal.

The agencies, which are paid by the U.S. government according to how many refugees they resettle, are concerned about their ability to ramp up operations to accommodate the influx in the wake of cutbacks instituted under the Trump administration.

The agencies closed roughly a third of their offices nationwide, according to Refugee Council USA.

Meanwhile, the rushed evacuation of Afghans from a country now run by the Taliban raises questions about how well the U.S. can possibly vet the incoming refugees. 

While Afghans with SIVs have been previously vetted, as they were employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government, Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies has argued that it will be “literally impossible” to vet Afghans who have never been screened given the lack of record-keeping in Afghanistan that would allow the U.S. to verify a refugee’s identity. 

Yet even if the vetting process uncovers incriminating information, the U.S. can’t deport them back to Afghanistan or release them in a country that has agreed to temporarily host refugees while vetting takes place. This means the U.S. is likely to take on the refugees regardless of what the vetting turns up.

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