Tucson readies services for Afghan refugees arriving from military bases

Published: Wednesday, November 17, 2021 - 9:35am
Updated: Wednesday, November 17, 2021 - 10:01am
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The U.S. State Department says refugee resettlement will temporarily prioritize Afghan evacuees set to arrive from U.S. military bases in the coming months. 

More than 120,000 Afghans were air-lifted out of Afghanistan earlier this year after U.S. troops withdrew from the country and the Afghan government fell. Tens of thousands are still waiting at military bases. A State Department spokesperson said the prioritization is part of Operation Allies Welcome, a Department of Homeland Security initiative to resettle vulnerable Afghans and those who helped the U.S. during its two decade-long war in Afghanistan.

Between Oct. 29 and Jan. 11, the resettlement program will prioritize getting those families to new homes in the U.S., including refugees with Special Immigrant Visas, those with urgent or family reunification cases and those who already have travel arrangements. 

"This temporary prioritization of new bookings will allow resettlement agencies and community partners to provide necessary services to the Afghans that will be leaving U.S. safe havens in the coming weeks and months as well as to receive refugees already booked for travel in November and December," the spokesperson said in an email. 

Tucson City Council member Steve Kozachik says of some 2,000-3,000 Afghans expected to come to Arizona, around 500-600 will resettle in Tucson.

"So they show up here eligible for things such as food stamps and some emergency rental assistance, but it’s all temporary stuff," he said. 

Kozachik says traditional refugee resettlement happens with a lot of planning, but Afghan families arriving now are coming quickly and often without essentials like housing in place. He is working with resettlement agencies to find landlords in Tucson who are willing to work with families on permanent housing solutions and taking donations for food, clothing and other items.

He says he wants more federal funds would help bridge the gap in Tucson communities.