While the world is focused on Afghanistan and what happens in the days remaining before the Aug. 31 evacuation deadline, a new, connected crisis is already brewing.
According to the Washington Examiner, U.S. officials are scrambling to open additional military bases for the influx of Afghan refugees, which will number in the tens of thousands and present a brand new set of challenges, especially with the backdrop of COVID-19.
What’s going on?
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby announced on Friday a number of additional military installations that will be used to temporarily house — and we all know what that term really means — the flood of Afghan refugees being flown to the United States.
Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, Fort Pickett military base in Virginia, and Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico have all been added to an already long list of bases around the nation where Afghans will be processed and take up residence, for the time being.
Fort Lee in Virginia, Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, Fort Bliss in Texas, and Joint Base McGuire-Dix in New Jersey were in the first group of military bases designated to house Afghan refugees.
Reportedly, as all of the aforementioned bases are fully equipped, they’ll be able to hold some 50,000 Afghan refugees, most of whom have been given a rarely used designation of being under the Humanitarian Parole program, which essentially allows the U.S. government to grant the refugees a temporary legal status while they file for official refugee, asylum, or Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) status.
“The Defense Department will continue to support the State Department in providing temporary housing, sustainment, and support inside the United States for a capacity of up to 50,000 Afghan special immigrant visa applicants, their families, and other at-risk individuals,” Kirby said at Friday’s presser.
What happens next?
As previously stated, the next crisis, politically speaking, will involve the number of Afghan refugees that President Joe Biden’s administration allows to come to America, and where those tens of thousands — or more — refugees go after their temporary stay at various military installations.
“Most will start the new American chapter of their lives at military installations scattered across the U.S. where they’ll be vetted before moving on to more permanent destinations,” an NPR report noted.
The report added that Texas will likely be a major hub of Afghan resettlement efforts, given the number of refugee agencies that operate across the state.
Those agencies typically set up refugees and their families with housing, utilities, furniture, food, and essentially everything needed to live comfortably in the United States. While many of the agencies are funded with donations, they’ll undoubtedly be financially backed to some degree with various government grants or funds, given the extraordinary nature of the situation.
While the 2022 midterm elections are just over one year out, it’s not a stretch to presume that Republican candidates will dial in on the emerging Afghan refugee crisis and its effects on America, especially given the sheer amount of resources it will take to settle them all.