This morning, the first flight of Operation Allies Refuge arrived in the United States, carrying Afghans who assisted U.S. forces and are eligible for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) along with their families.
“These arrivals are just the first of many as we work quickly to relocate SIV-eligible Afghans out of harm’s way—to the United States, to U.S. facilities abroad, or to third countries—so that they can wait in safety while they finish their visa applications,” President Biden said in a statement.
“These first Afghans are able to come directly to the United States because they have already completed extensive background checks and security screening by the Intelligence Community and the Departments of State and Homeland Security,” he said. “They will complete the final steps of their visa applications and required medical checks at Fort Lee, in Virginia, before traveling onward to begin their new lives in the United States.”
“I want to honor all those in the United States who have spoken out on behalf of these brave Afghans, including the proud community of veterans, who have consistently advocated for the Afghans who were by their side in the field in Afghanistan, often serving as translators and interpreters. And I want to thank the diplomats and public servants across our government and around the world who are working tirelessly as part of Operation Allies Refuge.”
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said he was “profoundly honored to welcome to the United States the first group of Afghan nationals who so admirably helped support the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.”
“The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is proud to work with the White House, Department of Defense, and Department of State on Operation Allies Refuge to protect those who bravely helped keep Americans safe,” he said. “CBP and USCIS are committed to ensuring these individuals receive the support they need as they settle in the United States and obtain legal status in our country.”
The Taliban have threatened retaliation against Afghans who assisted U.S. forces. The nonprofit No One Left Behind, which is pushing for acceleration of the State Department’s three-and-a-half-year average wait time for processing an SIV, says it has recorded cases of more than 300 interpreters and family members who were killed because of their association with the United States.
“The local Afghan employees paid a very high price for joining the U.S. as they were threatened to death and lost their goods and lives,” said an open letter from Afghan interpreters to President Biden. “This tragic event is still continuing and is easier now for enemy to attack them as the U.S. has started to withdraw troops.”