Veterans step up again: New program allows private groups to sponsor Afghan refugees

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

The White House is announcing a new program today that is being described as a “massive change” to the resettlement of Afghan refugees. Military veterans and private citizens are stepping up to support the Afghans during resettlement. It’s praiseworthy that these volunteers are filling a vacuum left by the Biden administration.

While we still don’t really know how many American citizens and green card holders are left behind in Afghanistan, waiting to be evacuated, we do know that thousands of Afghans have been brought to the United States. Military bases around the country are being used to house them as they work through their next steps. Biden put DHS in charge of resettling the refugees. Private citizens and corporations have helped from the beginning with donations, both financial and basic needs like clothing, personal products, and home items.

The further we get into this process, the more it becomes clear that the Biden administration isn’t up to the task. Shocker, I know. This administration keeps proving that it isn’t up to any major task or crisis. In this case, private citizens and groups are now being allowed to help ease the transition for the refugees. There are 55,600 refugees in the system right now, as it is being reported.

The move marks the biggest change to the resettlement program since 1980, when the modern-day infrastructure for admitting refugees was put in place.

Now, to increase options to evacuees, the Biden administration is launching a program that would allow veterans with ties to Afghans, as well as others, the opportunity to bring them to their cities and serve as a support network as they get their lives started in the US, former Delaware Gov. Jack Markell told CNN.

“This is just an amazing opportunity to, frankly, do what our veterans have been asking us to do, which is provide a safe and dignified welcome to Afghans who served by our side in Afghanistan, and who now want to build their own lives here,” said Markell, a Democrat and the temporary point person overseeing the Afghan evacuee resettlement effort for the administration.

Veterans, who have worked closely with Afghans who fled Afghanistan fearing reprisals from the Taliban for their work with the US, underscored the significance of pairing evacuees with people with shared lived experiences.

“We’ve been there. We understand what it’s like to come from that experience and then find yourself dropped into this environment and how quite frankly overwhelming that it can be,” said Matt Zeller, a security fellow at the Truman National Security Project, who added he’s willing to open up his home to Afghans and their families.

Zeller is clamoring to meet an Afghan interpreter who he spoke with prior to the fall of Kabul and helped evacuate. “He calls me his guardian angel,” Zeller said, adding he’d be willing to house the interpreter and his family. “I just want to hug him.”

“The make-or-break factor between endemic poverty and making it in America is whether or not you have a veteran assisting you. And the earlier that occurs in the process, the more successful,” Zeller, who served in Afghanistan, said.

Kudos to the man willing to take refugees into his home. The Biden administration largely ignores them – it was so 3 or 4 days ago, time to turn the page. Meanwhile, we have tens of thousands of displaced people here, mostly due to the horribly botched withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Naturally, the Biden administration blames the previous administration for its inability to deal with a problem of their own making. The refugee resettlement system is set up to require that refugee agencies have local offices in their new communities. This is to provide a network of community groups that can help them settle into the community, to get housing and jobs along with any other services they may need. The Trump administration is being blamed for closing offices around the country because of the low number of arrivals during that administration. So, a sponsorship-like system will allow flexibility and provide more locations for the refugees to go. The crucial factor is relying on volunteers signing up and the ability for those volunteers to have the resources needed.

The new program falls under Operation Allies Welcome, coordinated by the State Department. Yes, the ones who botched the withdrawal from Afghanistan in the first place. So, we’ll see how this program goes off. If the State Department can’t even give us an accurate number of people still stranded in Afghanistan, it doesn’t exactly lend a lot of confidence in the department’s ability to do this.

Groups of five individuals over the age of 18 will be allowed to apply as a so-called sponsor circle. They will go through background checks, commit to fundraising in order to financially support evacuees for up to 90 days, complete training, and develop a plan for the family, The next step is for the group to secure housing and help refugees access benefits that are available through the government. Benefits like medical services and education for their children are available. Sponsors can house Afghans in their own homes but it is encouraged that it be a temporary fix, that permanent housing is found for them. Housing is expensive in many parts of the country and often in short supply.

Groups will also be responsible for raising money to get refugees set up in their community. Usually, the federal government provides a one-time payment of $2,275 for each Afghan an agency serves, of which $1,225 is available for agencies to use for direct assistance like housing and basic necessities, including furniture and silverware. The other bulk of the money is used to cover administrative costs. Afghans will still be eligible for federal benefits. The sponsor circles will have to raise that same amount — $2,275 — privately.

Thanks to our veterans and private citizens, the refugees will receive the help that the Biden administration is unable to handle. We know the mess DHS has made of the southern border and dealing with the illegal migrants housed in the country. Add tens of thousands of refugees from Afghanistan to the mix and DHS is shown to be woefully inept once again.