Afghan refugees arrive in Texas, donations pour in to help

AP Photo/Rahmat Gul

Afghan refugees began arriving Sunday at Fort Bliss near El Paso. This is one of three locations the Pentagon announced would handle the refugees as they arrived in America. Last week we wrote about the plans to bring Afghan refugees to Fort Bliss, Fort Lee, and Fort McCoy.

On Saturday “a number of Afghans at risk” arrived at Fort Bliss and transferred to the Cona Ana Range Complex in New Mexico. That group will be temporarily housed there, as confirmed by U.S Army North. That’s Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin, as well as New Mexico that will be handling the influx of refugees so far. It looks as though the Biden administration is spreading them around the country.

The U.S. military is presently flying Afghans from Kabul to various points around the world. Pentagon officials said Sunday that those evacuated to facilities inside the United States are in the final stages of the State Department-run Special Immigrant Visa program.

The Army is assisting temporary housing operations for the Afghans on U.S. bases. “The 1st Armored Division team is providing the Afghans at Fort Bliss essential support, such as lodging,” Army Col. Martin O’Donnell, with U.S. Army North, told The Washington Times on Sunday. “As you can imagine, there is much activity associated with the arrival.”

Specifics have not been given, like the number of refugees or who exactly they are, for security reasons. People in the community are coming forward to offer help and volunteer for what needs to be done. This, by the way, is happening across the country – Americans eager to help with the transition of those who helped American soldiers in Afghanistan. Many are going to other countries but for those who are relocating to America, there are lots of people volunteering to help.

Resettlement groups and charities are organizing to offer aid where needed. An article in the Washington Post last weekend delivered some snarky slaps at Texas while reporting the outpouring of support. Texans are Neanderthals, you know, especially to those in the Biden administration and the writers at the Washington Post. Note the reference to immigration policy, which they know is around illegal immigration, not legal immigration.

Even in Texas, a state divided over immigration policy, advocates say residents have shown strong support for the thousands of refugees expected to land there. A training session scheduled for volunteers Saturday had to be moved online because more than 200 people had signed up — despite the state being a covid hot spot.

“We have never seen this kind of increase in people wanting to volunteer,” said Jacqueline Buzas, a program supervisor for Refugee Services of Texas. “We have people calling to say, ‘I have an extra bedroom.’ Or, ‘I’m retired and have this extra house.’ People understand the human aspects of this, having to flee this life-or-death situation. And they just open the door.”

Senator Cornyn visited Fort Bliss last week in anticipation of the arrival of the refugees. He said that up to 10,000 may arrive there in the coming weeks.

“My prayers at this point [are] we aren’t too late to get them out of the country,” Cornyn told local reporters, saying that the sprawling military complex was large enough for everyone.

“Fort Bliss is a big place,” Cornyn said. “The [post commander] briefed me this morning and said they have more than enough space to accommodate the Afghan refugees. My hope is that we can get those people out of Afghanistan that we’ve worked with these past 20 years because if we can’t, many of them will simply be killed along with their families.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who has advocated limits on refugees even though his father emigrated from Cuba, echoed Cornyn during a stop outside Dallas on Wednesday. “We have an obligation not to leave people to die at the hands of the Taliban for the crime of helping America,” Cruz said.

But he called for the refugees to be properly vetted and said he planned to hold hearings on the Biden administration’s handling of Afghanistan. “We also have an obligation to keep our citizens safe,” he said.

Other countries are offering to take in Afghan refugees. Three Balkan countries have offered to help desperate Afghans, but no refugees have flown in on American flights. North Macedonia, Kosovo, and Albania have offered to take refugees. Their populations know about living with violence. So far there have been no planes arriving in these countries. The chaos and confusion on the ground in Kabul lead to uncertainty and confusion for those willing to help.

Duško Arsovski, a spokesman for the government of North Macedonia, said Saturday that his country was waiting for information and was in the process of organizing hotels for the refugees to stay in.

The country’s prime minister, Zoran Zaev, said Friday that his tiny nation would take in around 650 Afghans.

“We are rescuing a peaceful population who have cherished democracy for 20 years and who were a help and support to our military on their missions over there,” he said.

A spokesman for Kosovo’s government said a flight could be expected in coming days, although he had no information about when it would arrive and could not say how many Afghans his country would take in.

The situation was equally unclear in Albania where the prime minister’s spokesman, Endri Fuga, said, “If they arrive today, we still don’t know.”

Yesterday the Civil Reserve Air Fleet was activated to help transport Americans and Afghan helpers. The commercial planes will not fly into Afghanistan but will be used to transport passengers out of the military bases they are brought to out of Kabul. The Biden administration has so botched up this troop withdrawal that it needs all the help it can get from both military and civilian personnel.