Afghan evacuees start to leave U.S. military sites as part of new resettlement phase

USA flies Afghans out of Germany

Camilo Camilo

October 21, 2021 / 7:00 AM / CBS News

The U.S. has begun discharging thousands of Afghan evacuees from military facilities and placing them in communities across the country as part of the new phase of a massive, nationwide resettlement effort, the latest government figures show.

In recent weeks, 6,000 Afghan evacuees have left temporary housing sites at U.S. military installations to start new lives in America with the help of nonprofit refugee resettlement agencies, according to Department of Homeland Security data. Another 3,000 U.S. citizens, green card holders and Afghans with close ties in America have left the facilities on their own.

Nearly 4,000 Afghan evacuees were resettled in U.S. communities during the past week alone.

More than 55,000 Afghans, half of them children, remain at eight U.S. military sites in Indiana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Virginia and Wisconsin. Another 5,000 evacuees housed at overseas military bases are waiting to be placed on U.S.-bound flights, according to the DHS statistics.

The pace of relocations from the military sites has ramped up in recent days after the U.S. completed a campaign to vaccinate evacuees against COVID-19 and other diseases. The number of arrivals has also increased after the U.S. lifted a three-week pause on evacuation flights earlier this month.

More than 10,000 evacuees have arrived in the U.S. since the flights resumed, bringing the total number of people relocated since mid-August to more than 75,000, DHS figures show. Roughly 89% of the evacuees are Afghans, while the rest are U.S. citizens or green card holders.Afghan families walk through the waiting area for departure to the U.S. On the wall of the tent is written “Welcome to the USA.” Boris Roessler/picture alliance via Getty Images

Before the mass evacuations started in August, the U.S. government relocated thousands of Afghans who were determined to be eligible for Special Immigrant Visas because of their assistance to American military forces.

A senior Biden administration official, who requested anonymity to speak freely, said the government is working to process evacuees as quickly as possible, while making case-by-case decisions on which U.S. communities can receive them.

“It’s not easy to move large groups. Our overall goal is to get the balance right here,” the official told CBS News. “We certainly could just move people to a big housing facility somewhere. But we’re really keen to move people to their final resettlement destination and a place that meets the needs of their family.”

U.S. Army at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin shelters Afghan refugees

Resettlement officials said a major hurdle in getting Afghans out of the military bases more expeditiously is the limited housing in U.S. communities where many of evacuees have family ties, including northern California and the Dallas, Houston and Washington, D.C., suburbs. 

“The bottom line is that housing is and will remain a major stumbling block, especially in these preferred destinations,” Erol Kekic, a senior vice president at Church World Service, one of the nine national resettlement agencies, told CBS News.

The administration official acknowledged the housing shortage, saying the government is encouraging evacuees to move to states like Oklahoma, which has offered to subsidize their housing for more than a year. The state is set to host the third-largest number of Afghan arrivals during the first resettlement phase. Volunteer Sandra Hoeser plays frisbee with Afghan refugees at Fort McCoy U.S. Army base, in Wisconsin, U.S., September 30, 2021. Barbara Davidson/Pool via POOL / REUTERS

The administration has also allowed resettlement groups to place Afghans with family members living in the U.S. and outside the typical 100-mile radius limit from a local resettlement office, the official noted. It is also working to identify short-term housing options in popular destinations.

“It’s not ideal to not put people in their final homes right from the very beginning. But in some of these areas where it’s busier, I think it’s probably better to get them at least off the bases, into some kind of housing. Their kids can be registered in their ultimate school, etcetera,” the official said.

Before boarding flights to the U.S, Afghans have been subjected to biometric and biographic security screenings conducted by multiple law enforcement and intelligence agencies, including DHS and the FBI. 

Flights of Afghan evacuees were suspended in September after several cases of measles were identified among the new arrivals. Before lifting the suspension in early October, the U.S. vaccinated 49,000 Afghans at the military sites against measles, mumps, rubella and varicella. 

Under the terms of their entry into the U.S., Afghan evacuees are also legally required to receive vaccines against polio and COVID-19. As of October 15, approximately 98% of the evacuees had received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to DHS data.

As part of a pilot program, personnel at the military sites have been asking evacuated Afghans about their skills and education and whether they speak English. Officials are then including their information in a database that prospective employers can use to hire them, the senior Biden administration official said.  Afghan flights halted over measles 05:14

At the military facilities, adult evacuees have access to English classes and children are receiving ad hoc educational services, the administration official said. Evacuated Afghans are also getting help filing immigration paperwork, including applications for asylum and Special Immigrant Visas, the official added.

The Biden administration has determined that at least 50% of the at-risk Afghans relocated to the U.S. are eligible for Special Immigrant Visas because they aided American forces during the 20-year war in Afghanistan, according to the DHS. Special visa holders become permanent U.S. residents.

Those who do not qualify for the special visas — like journalists, activists and humanitarian aid workers — don’t have a pathway to secure permanent U.S. legal status. Unless Congress legalizes them, they will likely have to seek U.S. status though the backlogged asylum system.  

Many Afghans evacuated to the U.S. have family members in Afghanistan or in neighboring countries like Pakistan whom they believe could be harmed by the Taliban. Refugee advocates have urged the administration to set up a process for these individuals to request U.S. resettlement.

The senior Biden administration official said the government will try to make parole — a humanitarian process that authorizes the entry of immigrants without visas — available to certain Afghans overseas, particularly immediate family members of evacuees in the U.S.

“Family reunification for children with parents is always going to be an immediate priority,” the official said. “That is one thing we’re looking at parole for.”

According to internal notices sent this month, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees have been asked to volunteer to help process “an increasing number of requests for parole for Afghan nationals outside the United States.”

Eleanor Watson contributed to this report.

Camilo Montoya-Galvez

Camilo Montoya-Galvez

Camilo Montoya-Galvez is the immigration reporter at CBS News. Based in Washington, he covers immigration policy and politics.

17 comments on “Afghan evacuees start to leave U.S. military sites as part of new resettlement phase

  1. Have you seen them there? Notice where they are putting them – Indian country. Oklahoma was promised to American Indians. Then they allowed Europeans to run them over and now foreign Muslims. They are going to be given welfare forever with no restrictions. Some Republicans tried to restrict welfare to two years. I don’t agree with two years. Meanwhile they left Americans hit by Ida to starve and die of heat exhaustion; they refuse to reimburse food lost from power outages, which has to be making most starve; they are running people out of their businesses and their jobs. The only people in the United States reproducing about replacement level are black people in Maine! For those who say: Maine has black people? It’s immigrants from Somalia. Goodbye Maine. We have no historic connection to that East Africa, which was also communist and fascist. African Americans came from West Africa. All these people on welfare can just stay home and reproduce like rats (not going to insult bunnies and mice). Black Americans aren’t even at replacement, and even Hispanic Americans are at or below replacement without immigration. No one can afford children anymore, except these fake “refugees” on the dole and illegals having fake “American” kids. The Afghans who helped the US will be quickly at work and making themselves useful, but the fake majority won’t. There’s a lot of Americans working hard and working three jobs simply because they don’t want to be on the dole. 🙄😡🙏🏻

    Liked by 1 person

    • YES THEY ARE HERE… We also have, I’m assuming from India, because of their clothing, every time somebody puts a house up for sale, the government buys them up and they move in and supposedly are paying rent, which is total BS they’re living there for free!! My husband needed slacks and I was sitting outside the dressing room waiting for him and there were several there buying clothing especially suits, I heard many have settled in Lancaster. Wolf is a Democrat and letting them move here to get the money!!! I will never ever, ever, vote for a #&@# Democrat again!!!!! 😤😤😤😤

      I need to find out if you’re posting anything, I have not seen anything from you and I’m wondering if I accidentally unfollowed, please put a link to one of your post, so I can follow again!

      May the angels watch over and protect both of you.😇🙏🍀

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sorry for you and sorry for my Penn Dutch homeland. I was just wrote a comment on another blog about how my Penn Dutch ancestor volunteered to fight for Pennsylvania and the Union and that people are totally clueless about what Civil War would mean. My grandfather on that side said that he would always be a Republican because that was the party of Lincoln.

        Yes I’ve been posting. I hope you didn’t get unsubscribed when I had to unsubscribe the wicked witch. I’ve been trying to work hard but can’t keep up. Often I’m posting multiple things. Here are two you may like:

        Christians Not Allowed in 100% Muslim Somalia But Somali US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar Wants Special Protections for Muslims; Ilhan’s Soviet Trained Father was Colonial in Islamo-Communist Army

        I unsubscribed from everyone’s blogs years ago and just visit as I recall/as I am able. As a result I often lose web sites, if people don’t bother to ever give me “likes” (which is almost everyone). Your site is easy to remember, too.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Wise words from a wise man, I learned a lot about the civil war from my father, whose father fought in the war too,not to mention my one brother loved history. It’s a shame the way the new generation is so stupid, we wouldn’t have half the problems we do if they were more educated.
          Thanks for the link! I don’t know what happened, but I want to get it straightened out.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Your grandfather’s grandfather fought in the US Civil War? I gave up calculating how it could be your grandfather fighting in the 1860s. Maybe the Irish Civil War in the 1920s? I think they want to ban Gone with the Wind because it shows how horrible Civil War is.

            Liked by 1 person

            • He was in this country before the Irish civil war and was a military man and I know he fought in two wars, I know he definitely was in the first world war,my parents were born in 1912 and he was much older than my grandmother, but unfortunately I can’t ask my brother to get the right information. Sorry 🤔

              Liked by 1 person

            • It was probably the Spanish American war? Is that the name? Or is it the Mexican American War? There was at least one closer to WWI. To be in the US Civil War, I guess he could have been born as late as 1845 and fight at the end of the war, as an 18 year old. That would make him 67 in 1912, which is possible. If he fought at 15, then he would be 64 years old. He might have come and fought as a surrogate, perhaps lying about his age. Without the Irish soldiers the Union probably would have lost. You need to write down the stories that you remember. The other blogger was saying we need to make the stories into a historical novel. There are these details of history that matter and can be lost. A brother of one ancestor told or wrote about how they were taken captive and escaped and walked home across several states.

              Liked by 1 person

            • Yes that was it, the Spanish-American war thank you! That would be a good idea, but I’m afraid I’m getting to the point that I’m second-guessing myself on many of the facts. 🤔


  2. PS: You should be able to click on the icon from the “likes” and get to the blog. That’s how I get to people’s blogs if I forget the link. Or, sometimes I type the name. There were people from India coming through with the illegals. However, I don’t think that you can tell the difference in the attire for many of the Pakistanis, Afghanis and those from India in certain regions. You may have a better eye than I do, though.

    Liked by 1 person

        • The only Hindu I have seen with the red dot, in recent years, was very hard working and kind, so hopefully they will be nice. That’s the trouble, though. They can be nice, but we still don’t need more people here. However, it’s better for them to be nice and hard working than not nice. They may be vegan, too. For the gemstones, I will have to double check.

          The trouble is that we were never warned that we had to be nicer and better than immigrants, in our own country, in order to work! Also, many are incompetent and arrogant. I’ve seen a nice, talented one, sent back to India and the arrogant below average ones kept here. Generally everything is upside down in our immigration policy. The only time I think we got it right was with the Vietnamese refugees.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Maybe it is a red dot, It looks like there’s a jewel on the one woman, but it could be my eyes, I don’t know anything about them, they stay to themselves, they removed many of the plants and replaced with ones they can use for food, they come out every day and collect the flowers from the roses and other bushes so they probably are vegans.

            Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you, that’s so interesting, it’s definitely my eyes playing tricks on me, because it looks like it’s a gemstone when the sunlight shines on her face.

          That is weird about WP!?


          • The article says Jewels or fake plastic jewels that have sticky on them, I think. I am sure I have seen the bindis in stores that are plastic with sticky behind. Interesting is why a few immigrants add spice to life but too much spice ruins everything.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I saw that, but I thought it was for dancers /entertainers who put the jewels above the eyebrows, I’ll have to reread that again 🤔
              I can’t eat their food it’s too spicy for me 😬

              Liked by 1 person

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