President Joe Biden’s Operation Allies Welcome has ended its resettlement program at Fort Lee in Virginia as the program has now housed all of its Afghan refugees within the U.S.
“This historic milestone highlights the ongoing commitment and perseverance we have witnessed to safely welcome our Afghan allies to the United States through a whole-of-society effort,” said Robert J. Fenton Jr., senior response official for Operation Allies Welcome.
“As we complete operations at Fort Lee, we are incredibly proud of the collaboration that has led to the resettlement of more than 25,000 vulnerable Afghans, including those who worked on behalf of the United States, into local communities across our country,” he added.
The press release noted the DOD continues to provide temporary housing facilities for the remaining approximately 45,000 vulnerable Afghans who are in the process of completing their resettlement while at the following seven military installations: Camp Atterbury, Indiana; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey; Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico; Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Pickett, Virginia; Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia; and Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.
While on these installations, Afghan evacuees have access to a range of services, including medical care and resettlement services, and they can apply for work authorization.
“Our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Guardians have given – and continue to give – steadfast support as part of Operation Allies Welcome,” said U.S. Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, U.S. Northern Command commander.
More to Come
“Last summer, Fort Lee was the first of eight DOD installations to welcome Afghans as they underwent the resettlement process, and today the task force at Fort Lee is the first to bid farewell to the Afghans as they proceed on to their lives in America,” he added.
The statement added that 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 the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), and other Intelligence Community partners.
Afghan evacuees also receive 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.
The DHS states it knows that more than 40% of Afghans are eligible for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) because they took significant risks to support our military and civilian personnel in Afghanistan, working for or on behalf of the U.S. government in Afghanistan or our coalition forces, or are a family member of someone who did. Some are SIV applicants who were already in the SIV pipeline.
Additionally, others worked as journalists, human rights activists, or humanitarian workers and had careers that put them at risk. And many are family members of American citizens and LPRs.
The 70,000 Afghan refugees making America home will enjoy the benefits of America, though some Americans remain behind, stranded under Taliban rule in Afghanistan.