Afghan immigrants are rebuilding their lives in communities across America

The last group of Afghan nationals temporarily housed at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia as part of Operation Allies Welcome (OAW) departed the base, moving on to rebuild their lives.

The last group of Afghan nationals left Fort Lee, Virginia, on November 17, 2021, so Quantico was the second military installation cleared of immigrants ensuring that our Afghan allies are warmly embraced and resettled safely, with dignity, and with the support they need.

Marine Corps Base Quantico is the second of eight Department of Defense (DOD) installations supporting the resettlement of Afghan nationals that are also known as “safe havens” to complete operations.

This February 2020 photo shows Secretary of State Michael Pompeo effectuating the surrender to the Taliban on behalf of President Donald Trump, which freed 5,000 of the terrorist group’s fighters from prison and ultimately resulted in the chaotic American retreat from Afghanistan.

To date, more than 49,000 evacuees have been resettled in communities across the United States since the February 2020 surrender to the Taliban on behalf of President Donald Trump and the subsequent withdrawal of Americans from Afghanistan under President Joe Biden, a little more than one year later.

These resettlement efforts are led by the Department of State in close coordination with more than 290 local resettlement affiliates.

“As another one of our safe haven locations completes operations, we remain steadfast in our commitment to safely welcome our Afghan allies to the United States,” said Robert J. Fenton, Jr., senior response official for Operation Allies Welcome. “With operations now completed at Marine Corps Base Quantico, I would like to thank all the federal staff, service members, and volunteers who made it possible for more than 49,000 Afghan evacuees to begin to rebuild their lives in America. We are grateful for the support the local community has shown our Afghan allies and the staff working with them throughout this historic effort.”

DOD continues to provide temporary housing facilities for the remaining approximately 25,000 vulnerable Afghans who are in the process of completing their resettlement while at the following six safe havens: Camp Atterbury, Indiana; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey; Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico; Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Pickett, Virginia; and Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.

A structure housing Afghan evacuees at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, where more than 9,300 Afghans arrived for resettlement in the United States.

While on these military installations, the refugees have access to a range of services, including medical care and resettlement services, and they can apply for work authorization.

“Over the past four months, the men and women in uniform at Task Force Quantico have provided unflagging support to Operation Allies Welcome, working with myriad partners enabling the successful resettlement of more than 49,000 Afghans into their new communities throughout the United States,” said Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, commander of U.S. Northern Command.

“I met with service members, interagency partners, and volunteers at each of the eight military installations that supported Operation Allies Welcome over the course of the mission,” said VanHerck. “In every instance, l was impressed with the incredible professionalism and compassion displayed, and I am extraordinarily proud of what members of DOD did to contribute to a brighter future for these Afghans.”

As of December 23, the U.S. has welcomed more than 75,000 Afghans to the United States through Operation Allies Welcome, providing them with support and assistance as they begin their new lives in America – and we are prepared to welcome additional qualifying Afghans over the coming weeks and months.

Prior to entering the United States, Afghan evacuees must successfully complete a rigorous, multi-layered screening and vetting process that includes biometric and biographic screenings conducted by intelligence, law enforcement, and counterterrorism professionals from multiple federal agencies.

Those evacuees also received critical vaccinations – which include measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), varicella, polio, COVID-19, and others – as a condition of their humanitarian parole. All OAW arrivals are tested for COVID-19.

Those who are interested in supporting the resettlement of vulnerable Afghans can go to www.welcome.us to learn more about how to get involved. Welcome.US is a national non-profit initiative to welcome and support Afghan nationals as they rebuild their lives in communities across America.

Groups of individuals and community organizations can also apply to form a sponsor circle to directly support arriving Afghan evacuees. For more information on the Sponsor Circle Program and to learn how to apply to form a sponsor circle, visit www.sponsorcircles.org.

The U.S. government has not provided a firm deadline for when it wants to relocate all evacuees from the bases, but DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is planning to complete the resettlement operation by February.

Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said there needs to be a “balance” between making sure families are relocated as quickly as possible, while ensuring they have places to call home.

“We’ve seen housing challenges, so our concern is making sure that they don’t get moved off the military bases and end up homeless,” Vignarajah said. “We’re equally concerned that the families have warm shelter if they are remaining on the military bases.”

As the U.S. welcomed tens of thousands of refugees fleeing Afghanistan, 33 major companies — including Amazon, Facebook, Pfizer, and Tyson Foods — joined the Tent Coalition for Afghan Refugees, pledging to help create economic opportunities for people as they start their new lives in America.

The new coalition is spearheaded by the Tent Partnership for Refugees, a network of over 180 global businesses integrating refugees. As part of this new commitment, some of America’s biggest employers will create job opportunities, provide training and other resources to help Afghans better integrate into the American economy — a fundamental component for Afghans’ successful resettlement in the U.S.

“America is at a critical juncture, and every part of our society must play its part to welcome our Afghan brothers and sisters. They have stood by our side, and we must stand by theirs,” said Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO of Chobani and founder of the Tent Partnership for Refugees. “I am so proud of the businesses stepping up today — and hope that many more will join our coalition. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again — the moment a refugee gets a job, it’s the moment they stop being a refugee. It’s the moment they can stand on their own two feet; it’s the moment they can make new friends; it’s the moment they can start a new life.”

The 33 companies span sectors from tech to retail, and from food service to consulting — showing the broad swath of support for Afghan refugees among the business community, and the diversity of job opportunities that will be offered.

They include: Accenture, the Adecco Group, Amazon, APCO, Bain & Company, Bright Horizons Family Solutions, Chobani, Coursera, Deloitte, Facebook, Gap Inc., General Assembly, Henry Schein, Inc., Hilton, HP, IHG Hotels & Resorts, Ipsos, Jacobs, Kleen-Tech, Mastercard, Panda Express, Pfizer, Rejuvenation – a Williams-Sonoma, Inc. brand, ServiceNow, Sitel Group, Sodexo, Tripadvisor, Tyson Foods, Uber, UPS, US Xpress, Wayfair, and Western Union.

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