U.S. Army photo by Spc. Froylan Grimaldo / 7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.
76,000 Afghan evacuees who were temporarily housed on U.S. military bases have all successfully departed the bases and are settling into communities across the country, according to Operation Allies Welcome. This was an extraordinary and historic effort to evacuate and welcome so many of our Afghan allies in such a short amount of time.
RefugePoint played a role in expediting this process by launching the Sponsor Circle Program with the Community Sponsorship Hub and other partners. The program empowers American citizens to pool their skills and resources to welcome displaced Afghans and pairs them with Afghan newcomers. Sponsor Circles commit to helping newcomers for at least three months with essential first steps, such as finding housing, applying for jobs, and enrolling children in school. It has created a unique opportunity for veterans to support their Afghan allies and for citizens to further the country’s tradition of welcome.
RefugePoint sent a team of staff to military bases in the U.S. to facilitate the matching of Afghan families with Sponsor Circles, provide information, and answer questions about the new program. The program was launched in October and by December we saw the first Afghan families depart from military bases to their new homes in American communities. This program represents what is perhaps the most significant innovation in U.S. refugee resettlement since the 1980 Refugee Act, allowing more active engagement of private citizens and community groups.
In Seattle, Washington, a group of former Vietnamese refugees created a Sponsor Circle to welcome an Afghan family into their community. In Farmington, New Mexico, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel teamed up with others in his community to form a Sponsor Circle, saying, “If we’re smart, we’ll bring more [Afghan newcomers] into our communities because they make us better as Americans.” Across the country, Americans from all backgrounds, religions, and political beliefs are coming together to support Afghan evacuees. So far, about 700 Americans have created sponsor circles to welcome 357 Afghan newcomers through community sponsorship.
“We commend the extraordinary work of the resettlement agencies, and their local affiliates and community partner organizations – more than 350 total – for working tirelessly around the clock to find new homes for Afghan families and help set them up for success throughout the United States. Thanks to their dedication, and that of countless staff, volunteers, and community sponsors across the country, we are proud to have served the largest number of new arrivals at one time in over fifty years, and will remain steadfast in our commitment to serving those in need,” said Nancy Izzo Jackson, Senior Bureau Official for the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s official release.
Now that the first phase of Operation Allies Welcome is complete, RefugePoint is turning its attention to the next phase of this operation. The U.S. government will continue welcoming Afghans from overseas safe havens, who have been fully screened and vetted, to a domestic facility. As this effort continues, RefugePoint will be working closely with the Community Sponsorship Hub, Welcome.US, and other partners to support Afghan newcomers.
“Americans across the country have stepped forward to welcome our Afghan allies in unique and inspiring ways. Rising to this historic moment of welcome, as so many have, is a testament to the bedrock values that have shaped our nation. As we plan for the next steps to relocate Afghans who are temporarily housed overseas, we must sustain this momentum to welcome our new neighbors,” said Sasha Chanoff, founder and CEO of RefugePoint.
Hundreds of Americans from diverse backgrounds, political affiliations, and religions have committed to welcoming Afghan newcomers through the Sponsor Circle Program. There is a great need for more volunteers to step up and support Afghans through community sponsorship. To learn more about this historic program and form a sponsor circle of your own, visit www.sponsorcircles.org.
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