WASHINGTON – Former Obama and Bush administration officials are launching a new organization to help streamline the resettlement process for some 65,000 Afghans forced from their countries of origin and now making the United States their home.
Welcome.US will bring together leading refugee organizations, government and large corporations to discuss with Americans how to help with Afghan refugee resettlement efforts.
“America has long been a beacon of hope and refuge for those seeking safety,” Welcome.US co-chairs Cecilia Muñoz and John Bridgeland told USA TODAY. “This effort to welcome the Afghans who have already contributed so much will enrich us all by their mere presence and show the world America in our best light.”
The United States evacuated Afghanistan last month after nearly 20 years in the country, where authorities evacuated more than 120,000 people from the country. Of the total, approximately 65,000 were Afghan refugees.
Many refugees who came to the United States were applicants for the Special Immigrant Visa program, which is a visa for Afghan nationals who assisted the United States during the war, or Afghans who would be vulnerable under the now controlled Afghanistan. by the Taliban.
Following:Will the withdrawal from Afghanistan be a permanent stain on Biden’s legacy? The story may not say
Muñoz is the former director of the White House Home Policy Council under President Barack Obama and Bridgeland is the former director of the White House Home Policy Council under President George W. Bush.
Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush, former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton, as well as Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama are honorary co-chairs of the organization .
The new organization will work with local and state officials, businesses, veterans groups, faith-based organizations and major refugee organizations to discuss with Americans how they can help Afghan refugees, who will need clothing, food, and homes while they have come with virtually nothing from their homelands.
In addition, as part of the organization, there will also be a hospitality fund, which will provide grants to non-profit organizations that work directly with the resettlement of Afghan refugees. Companies such as Walmart and Starbucks have pledged grants to the group of $ 500,000 and $ 350,000 respectively. Instacart announced it will donate 25,000 culturally appropriate meals to Afghans relocating to the United States
Following:Two women tried to flee Afghanistan. A family has escaped. One did not.
Although the United States is out of Afghanistan, authorities are still working to evacuate American citizens left behind, as well as the thousands of Afghan visa applicants who were also not evacuated from the country.
Former Delaware Governor Jack Markell, whom President Joe Biden has appointed to serve as a temporary resource person for the relocation of Afghan evacuees to the United States, said Welcome.US will make the relocation process more efficient, not only in the short term, but to help get Afghans have also adapted in the long term. Markell said the relocations would begin “in earnest in the coming weeks.”
Markell noted that Afghans coming to the United States after 20 years have supported the United States in its efforts and said Americans “know that our Afghan allies will help strengthen our communities, as will refugees and immigrants alike. have always done ”.
Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, chief executive officer of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said nine major resettlement agencies had individually worked on an emergency response to help resettle Afghans, but now there is a “point single entry “to get Americans involved. .
“This is a historic opportunity for us to show our new Afghan neighbors and the world the best of our country by demonstrating a broad collective and bipartisan coalition, coming together to provide essential services,” she said.
Contact Rebecca Morin on Twitter @RebeccaMorin_