Under pressure from the federal government, the agency will resettle 75 Afghan evacuees in Wausau by March
With the U.S. government intending to clear military bases of evacuees by February, resettlement agencies are under pressure to speed up the process of resettling Afghan refugees, parolees and immigrants to county communities, including Wausau.
Starting with the resettlement of around 10 Afghans to Wausau by the end of the year, the Ethiopian Community Development Council, Inc. (ECDC), one of the nine national resettlement agencies involved in the process, is joining forces. is beating against the clock to resettle a total of 75 Afghans by March, according to Adam VanNoord, director of the Multicultural Community Center, the local branch of ECDC in Wausau.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told Congress last month that while the U.S. government has not provided a firm deadline for each of the bases, the Biden administration aims to complete the operation of resettlement between December and February.
Every week, Afghan evacuees leave military bases in the United States – their temporary home since August after the fall of Kabul – to resettle in communities across the country. One of those temporary shelters, in Fort Lee, Virginia, was closed last month. Seven bases still have thousands of Afghans waiting to be relocated elsewhere.
The State Department, meanwhile, has asked resettlement agencies to speed up the resettlement of Afghans by February 15, a deadline the ECDC deems “a bit arbitrary” but tries to meet nonetheless. Responding to a question from Wausau Pilot & Review, a State Department spokesperson neither acknowledged nor denied issuing the deadline in either of two responses the department emailed.
“We do not comment publicly on internal discussions with the resettlement agency and affiliated partners,” a State Department spokesperson said after Wausau Pilot & Review complained about their non-response. “We are streamlining relocation as quickly, safely, and successfully as possible to help these individuals and families begin their new lives in the United States.”
In a previous statement, the spokesperson acknowledged the pressure the accelerated timetable puts on resettlement agencies.
“Resettlement agencies have been working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to serve as many newcomers as possible at one time for over 50 years, in a very short period of time.
ECDC’s VanNoord told Wausau Pilot & Review that the multicultural community center had almost completed the logistics and arrangements to start relocating 75 evacuees to Wausau before the end of fiscal 2022, with the first arrivals taking place from here the end of the year.
Arrivals will take place weekly after the first of the cases has been successfully relocated and the organization has had time to refine the case management process, VanNoord said, adding that the process for hiring staff support, such as case managers and a co-sponsorship coordinator, is nearing completion and he expects them to start work soon. The office is still looking for a CFO and until the person is hired the ECDC national office in Arlington will assist.
“We are in the process of procuring a halfway house to house around 15 people,” he said during the interview. “This is a transitional arrangement until we have affordable long-term housing. Transitional housing will have common living and dining areas, but a private and secure bedroom and bathroom for each family housed there. Housing financing is assured.
ECDC plans to welcome and resettle around 18-20 households. The agency’s local partner in Wausau, New Beginnings for Refugees, collected the necessary materials for these households.
According to US government officials, those arriving in the US are a mix of US citizens, lawful permanent residents, special immigrant visa (SIV) holders, SIV applicants, those who have worked directly with the United States as part of their mission in Afghanistan and their families, and other vulnerable Afghans.
Their tracing and verification, which began overseas and continued in the United States, involves biometric and biographical screenings carried out by intelligence, law enforcement and counterterrorism professionals.
Afghans who have been released on parole under the Afghan Assistance and Placement Program (APA) receive State Department-funded assistance through the nine resettlement agencies. Parolees will have two years to apply for a change in asylum status, according to VanNoord.
Damakant Jayshi is a journalist for Wausau Pilot & Review. He is also a member of the body of Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project that places journalists in local newsrooms. Contact him at [email protected]