State and federal offices prepare for resettlement of Afghan refugees

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As Governor Ned Lamont awaits news from federal authorities on the expected flow of Afghan refugees into Conncticut, his administration negotiates with resettlement agencies over housing, the costliest need for families expected to arrive at the rate of 100 per month from in September.

Chris George, executive director of Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services based in New Haven, said on Friday he believed the state would help find places for Afghan families. This will happen after an extensive verification process that begins at Kabul airport, continues at air bases in Europe and the Middle East, and ends at US military bases, where resettlement agencies are ultimately contacted.


Nineteen volunteers from the Connecticut Air National Guard’s 103rd Airlift Wing will travel to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Burlington, NJ to help with logistics and medical support for refugees assessed and temporarily accommodated there, Maj. Gen. Francis Evon, adjutant general of the Connecticut National Guard, said Friday.

“Our employees are trained professionals who understand the urgency, complexity and importance of this mission,” Evon said in a statement.

The state government has a limited role, although it will include several departments, including social services. Federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services, are the primary liaison between families evacuated by the military and resettlement agencies, including IRIS, the Connecticut Institute for Refuges and Immigrants based in Bridgeport and others.

“We are certainly in contact with immigration authorities in Washington, DC,” Lamont said after an unrelated event in Danbury on Friday. “They are contracting with IRIS and some of our other immigration groups in the state and we will be prepared to do whatever they ask us to do.”

George singled out U.S. Representative Jim Himes for helping hundreds of people try to navigate the evacuation process.

Himes, CT-4, whose district covers Fairfield County, said on Friday his Washington office had responded to 400 cases involving 700 people, ranging from US citizens to people who could have been civilian military employees. but do not have appropriate papers beyond a photo of a family member with the military.

“College friends contacted Facebook,” Himes said, noting that while ethics rules limit his work on Social Security issues to residents of the Congressional District, there are no such restrictions on the evacuation. from Kabul. “We got cold calls out of nowhere. It comes from all sides.

Himes recalled that the last time he visited Kabul was in early 2020, when he was part of a group comprising House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the US Representative. Adam Schiff from California. He drew parallels between the defeats in Vietnam and Afghanistan.

“There is a lot of soul-searching to be done here,” Himes said, recalling the optimistic assessments of generals and admirals in January 2020. “The culture of the military is such that a colonel cannot become a general if you tell the truth, it’s not part of their culture.

U.S. Representative Joe Courtney, D-2, said large numbers of Afghan refugees, many of whom have applied for the special immigrant visa program, are in U.S. military facilities in Qatar and Kuwait awaiting further examination. Courtney said her office received around 120 calls, mostly from Afghans with family ties in the United States.

President Biden’s budget included $ 3 billion for security forces in Afghanistan “which has obviously become completely questionable,” he said, adding that he could see Congress reallocating some of that funding to the program. special immigrant visa to expedite processing.

The Connecticut Department of Social Services will develop records on refugee families upon arrival and, with private resettlers, will try to help them succeed in their new homes.

“Historically, states have not spent a lot of money from their own budgets on refugee resettlement,” George told an online audience of more than 200 supporters, advocates, potential volunteers and the media on Friday afternoon.

“Of course, they’re doing something a certain way that’s just as important. The governors have been very welcoming and supportive of the resettlement of the refugees, so it is a positive thing, ”added George. “But in terms of financial or in-kind assistance, we are currently discussing with the state government how they can help financially with housing and it looks very positive, so I’m optimistic about that.”

It is too early in the evacuation process to determine the state’s full role, Lamont said Thursday.

“There hasn’t been any awareness in Connecticut yet on how we can support these refugees,” Lamont said. “In general, I will be there listening and listening … I haven’t received any requests from the White House yet, but again, provided the verification is serious, we will support you.” We are bringing out more and more people every day.

While IRIS has already helped resettle some Afghans who have arrived since the Asian nation’s surprise fall to Taliban troops earlier this month, other groups are waiting.

“The Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford is not involved in the resettlement of Afghan families at this time, but we look forward to joining the effort when we have the opportunity,” John Noonan, director of development and communications of this agency. , said Friday. Catholic Charities has been involved in resettlement operations since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.

The US Department of Defense on Friday authorized military bases in Virginia, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Texas and New Mexico to provide temporary housing to thousands of Afghans whose leaks from the besieged region have been helped by the army. The Connecticut Air National Guard Group is joining this mission.

CT Insider editors Julian Bergman and Peter Yankowski contributed to this report.


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