August 18, 2021
Dan Friedman, HIAS.org
(AFP via Getty Images)
When President Biden announced in April that American troops would withdraw from Afghanistan by 9/11, HIAS began to gear up to resettle thousands of Afghans who, by virtue of working for the U.S., qualify to enter the United States on Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs). Now, with the final troop pull out and sudden humanitarian crisis, HIAS and our U.S. affiliates are preparing to provide immediate help for those who arrive, as well as to rapidly scale up its SIV resettlement capacity.
At the moment, in Afghanistan, few options are available for those at risk of violent retaliation. Borders to neighboring countries are officially closed, and in-country refugee processing is not a possibility. Along with other resettlement agencies, HIAS has sent staff to Fort Lee, Virginia, to assist in processing those who are arriving there and is poised to send staff to other staging areas that are established.
Yalda Afif, a HIAS Program Manager, talked about the urgency of the situation. “As an Afghan woman who has worked with a large number of Afghans who have come here on special immigrant visas, I can tell you how terrifying the situation is for them back home and how bewildering it is when they arrive in America.”
As well as advocating for humanitarian evacuations for those whose lives are in danger and helping process the arrivals, HIAS is working with affiliates across our U.S. resettlement network to ramp up capacity. Although starved of funds and clients by the Trump administration’s anti-refugee policies, the HIAS resettlement program has a long and robust history of helping new Americans — including Afghans — navigate their arrival. Since 2008, for example, HIAS has resettled nearly 4,000 SIVs in eight states, from California to Pennsylvania and from Wisconsin to Florida.
Afif noted about the New York resettlement program, “HIAS has been working with Afghan SIVs since 2016 and has an excellent reputation both in Afghanistan and in New York — which has the largest U.S. Afghan community. We help those who arrive in the U.S., however, right now, endangered Afghan SIVs in Afghanistan have also been reaching out to me and HIAS to see if we can help them get out.”
HIAS has no way to help people escape, but through its network of affiliates, who are standing by to provide housing and resettlement assistance, HIAS will help ensure that newly arriving Afghans are welcomed and able to access opportunities to start their lives in safety in their new American communities.