“The Afghan evacuation in August was a shock to the US immigration and resettlement system, a collection of federal programs and nonprofit organizations that had already been upended by the Trump administration.
Afghan evacuees are in this holding pattern for several reasons. There are the screenings and immigration procedures that have to play out, and when they do, they are met with a now hollowed-out US resettlement infrastructure that’s struggling to keep up. All of this is happening for thousands of Afghans all at once.
The fall of the Afghan government happened more quickly than President Joe Biden’s administration anticipated, leading to more than 124,000 people being airlifted out of Afghanistan by August 30. This meant the thing immigrant advocates and some lawmakers feared would happen happened. Evacuations of Afghan allies and at-risk Afghans that should have been expedited months earlier were condensed into two chaotic weeks.
The backlog of Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs), the designation given to those who assisted the US government, added to the pressure. There were delays for years. President Donald Trump’s administration slow-rolled the program. Pandemic closures added to the logjam. Congress and the Biden administration tried to ramp up the process, but those efforts to accelerate vetting fell short.”
“Some of that uncertainty is tied to current challenges with the resettlement system. Trumpslashed refugee caps but curtailed admissions even lower than those ceilings, in part by deliberately jamming up the process. With so few refugees coming into the US — and so little government funding because of that — more than 100 local resettlement offices closed during the Trump administration. Many had built relationships with local partners such as landlords, employers, and churches, which would help in the resettlement process. Those relationships have languished. “And so what we have is, very quickly, the arrival of tens upon tens of thousands of Afghans, and a decimated network needing to help them,” said Jennifer Quigley, the senior director of government affairs at Human Rights First.
That strained resettlement system is compounded by existing problems, like the shortage of affordable housing. It is hard to find a home, harder still to find a landlord willing to rent to a family without any credit history.”