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Press Release // Immigration and Asylum

First Afghan Allies Arrive on US Soil in “Operation Allies Refuge”

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LIRS Staff

July 30, 2021

Contact: Timothy Young | | 443-257-6310

Washington D.C. – The first Afghan allies and their family members relocated as part of “Operation Allies Refuge” arrived on U.S. soil early this morning. Approximately 220 people arrived on the flight, all of whom have already been issued visas or are nearing the end of the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) application process. Those who still have to complete the final steps of SIV processing were being moved to Fort Lee, Virginia and are expected to transition to their new homes and communities in the coming days. Their arrival comes on the heels of yesterday’s passage of an emergency security supplemental bill by the Senate and the House, which includes funding for relocation efforts and Afghan refugee assistance, secures 8,000 additional SIVs, reforms the program to improve efficiency, and changes the employment requirement for eligibility from two years to one year. The following is a statement by Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service – a national refugee resettlement agency that has welcomed and supported more than 11,000 Afghan and Iraqi allies through the SIV program:

“This is the beginning of an historic moment when our nation put its core values into practice to keep a sacred promise to its allies. There will undoubtedly be challenges as they rebuild their lives in a new country, in many cases with extended family still in harm’s way, but we are confident these heroes will thrive as vital members of their communities. Equally worth celebrating is the overwhelmingly bipartisan passage of legislation to protect allies who risked everything to support our cause. It sends an urgent and unmistakable message to the White House that this issue transcends partisan politics. The people have spoken, and their clarion call is for bold, decisive action. However, in light of this consensus and mandate, the number of Afghans expected to be relocated to U.S. soil is woefully insufficient. To date, there is simply no clear plan as to how the vast majority of our allies will be brought to safety. The Biden administration should implement greater transparency as to how it will relocate each and every SIV applicant along with their family members. The administration has set an important precedent in where it has moved these first allies, proving the easiest and safest way to relocate others is by bringing them to U.S. soil. Given the weight of our moral responsibility, we need nothing less than a full-scale evacuation of allies to Guam or elsewhere in the U.S. We cannot in good conscience put them at risk in third countries with unreliable human rights records, or where the Taliban may be able to reach them.”

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