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The move marks the biggest change to the resettlement program since 1980, when the modern infrastructure for accommodating refugees was introduced.

To increase the opportunities for evacuees, the Biden administration is launching a program that allows veterans with ties to Afghans as well as others to bring them to their cities and serve as a support network once they get their lives started in the United States, the former Delaware said. Governor Jack Markell to CNN.

“This is just a great opportunity to, frankly, do what our veterans have asked us to do, giving a safe and dignified welcome to Afghans who served by our side in Afghanistan and who now want to build their own life here, “said Markell, a Democrat and temporary point guard who oversees the Afghan evacuation’s resettlement efforts for the administration.

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Veterans who have worked closely with Afghans fleeing Afghanistan for fear of reprisals from the Taliban for their work with the United States stressed the importance of pairing evacuees with people with shared living experiences.

“We’ve been there. We understand what it’s like to come from that experience and find yourself so fallen into this environment, and how frankly overwhelming it can be,” said Matt Zeller, a security fellow at the Truman National Security Project, who added that he is willing to open his home to Afghans and their families.

Zeller shouts to meet an Afghan interpreter he spoke to before Kabul’s fall and helped evacuate. “He calls me his guardian angel,” Zeller said, adding that he would be willing to house the interpreter and his family. “I just want to hug him.”

“The make-or-break factor between endemic poverty and doing it in America is whether you have a veteran helping you. And the earlier it happens in the process, the more successful,” said Zeller, who served in Afghanistan.

How it works

Refugee agencies have previously discussed the idea of ​​private sponsorship. The way the system currently works is an agency that will normally have a local office – or a network of community groups – that will familiarize refugees with their new surroundings and help them get started in housing and jobs, among other services.

But after four years of historically low arrivals under the Trump administration, agencies had to close some of their offices around the country and restrict where refugees can be relocated – a significant obstacle at a time when housing opportunities are already hard to find.

“We just did not have the capacity after the beatings we took during the Trump administration,” said Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of HIAS, a refugee aid agency. “Necessity is the mother of invention. This is the result of it.”

A sponsorship-like system aims to provide greater flexibility and open more places for refugees. But it depends on people signing up and having the resources to support Afghans and their families.

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

“It gives this opportunity to communities that said they want to stand up, stand up. That’s the point. It’s to maximize this outflow of desire to welcome,” said Danielle Grigsby, co-founder and director of external affairs at Community Sponsorship Hub. The hub will be largely responsible for the process, but other organizations will also assist, including Airbnb.org, the International Rescue Committee, Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services, and Welcome.US.

The administration has already made some changes to address localization restrictions, such as allowing resettlement groups to place Afghans and their families outside the usual 100-kilometer radius of a local resettlement office.

However, the new initiative would give groups of five people over the age of 18 the opportunity to apply as a so-called circle of sponsors. As part of this application, they will undergo background checks, commit to fundraising to financially support evacuees for up to 90 days, complete training and develop a plan for the family, according to Grigsby.

If approved, this group will then be responsible for securing housing, supporting refugees who have access to benefits available to them through the federal government, as well as medical services, and helping to enroll children in school, including responsibilities. . Sponsors can house Afghans in their homes even if it is encouraged to stay for a temporary period unless it is a relative, Grigsby said.

“The housing issue is definitely a challenge. Every American knows that housing is expensive and lacking,” Markell said.

“We have been very fortunate that a number of organizations, such as Airbnb, have risen. And these sponsors, because they are so ingrained in their communities, will have the benefit of knowing these communities and finding additional housing opportunities,” he added.

Financing

Groups will also be responsible for raising money to get refugees set up in their communities. Typically, the federal government provides a one-time payment of $ 2,275 for each Afghan served by an agency, of which $ 1,225 is available to direct aid agencies such as the United States. Housing and basic necessities, including furniture and silverware. The other bulk of the money is used to cover administrative costs. Afghans will still be entitled to federal benefits. Sponsors will have to raise the same amount – $ 2,275 – privately.

Markell declined to say when the military bases will be cleared. But veterans are eager to see Afghans move on to their next location.

Christina Tamayo, a representative of Allied Airlift 21, which helped evacuate Afghans from Afghanistan, told CNN that she is ready to help an Afghan and his family staying at a base in New Mexico.

“I am very well qualified to help them because I was so deeply involved in the coordination of other resource groups and I have a really good network,” Tamayo, who served with the U.S. Army and is based in Houston, told CNN .

Kristen Babicki, an Air Force veteran who served in Afghanistan in 2009, recently reunited with her interpreter at a military base in Virginia after his terrifying last days in Kabul. Like many who worked with or on behalf of the U.S. government, the Taliban’s return to power endangered their lives.

“On the 15th, he wrote me a really nice note,” Babicki said, referring to August 15, when the evacuation was underway. “He pretty much said goodbye.” Her interpreter and his family were eventually able to evacuate and are now at Fort Pickett, Virginia, ready to move in with relatives in Virginia.

It is not only veterans who stand in line to help. Refugees with shared experience also gather to support Afghans when they come from the bases, including a group of Vietnamese Americans in the state of Washington.

The last time the United States resettled somewhere close to this number of evacuees within such a short period of time was after the withdrawal of US troops from Vietnam, when more than 130,000 people came to the United States over a period of eight months.

“Our goal is to deliver an allied ship between the Vietnamese community and the Afghan community. And by using our shared refugee experience, not only to help the Afghan community, but to advocate for what they are going through and will be through,” he said. Uyen Nguyen, co-founder of the Viets4Afghans group.

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

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