Sep 16, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Mapped: Afghan refugees headed to 46 states

Approved number of Afghan refugees by state
Data: White House; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

The Biden administration notified governors and mayors on Wednesday of the number of Afghan evacuees their state is expected to receive in the coming weeks, two senior administration officials told Axios.

Why it matters: Although their exact immigration pathway is still unclear, an initial group of 37,000 Afghans will soon be headed to states across the country after many faced harrowing journeys from Afghanistan.

  • Former Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D), who President Biden appointed on Friday to oversee Afghan resettlement, made calls to state and local leaders notifying them on the number of Afghans to expect.
  • In conversations with nearly every state on Wednesday, not one official declined to take in Afghans, one senior administration official told Axios. "I have to say it was a very warm conversation with state and local leaders."

By the numbers: California is projected to receive the largest number of Afghans at 5,255. Next is Texas, at 4,481, according to State Department data obtained by Axios.

  • Hawaii, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming are the only states not slated to receive anyone from the first group of evacuees, along with Washington, D.C.
  • AP first reported on the numbers.

The big picture: The 37,000 is just the first group of Afghans who will be making new homes in American communities. Because they are not coming through the usual refugee process, caring for this population has come with numerous legal and logistical hurdles for groups in charge of their resettlement.

  • Even the housing crunch has had an impact. The administration has been assured by refugee resettlement agencies that the evacuees in the initial group have places to live, an official said.
  • The administration is also looking at launching new resettlement sites in places that have more affordable housing and job opportunities.

Of note: The group of refugees includes some Afghans who helped the U.S. in Afghanistan and applied for the Special Immigrant Visa, but officials declined to provide the exact numbers.

  • More than half of Afghans who have been brought to the states helped the U.S. government or are related to someone who did — that includes both SIV applicants and those who did not apply to the program, an official said.
  • Thousands of others who do not have U.S. citizenship, green cards or Special Immigrant Visas will remain in shelters on military bases across the country, for now.
  • More evacuees are waiting in third countries. Flights from these countries to the U.S. have been suspended due to a handful of measles cases among recently-arrived Afghans, senior officials told reporters on Tuesday.

What to watch: The Biden administration is depending on Congress to unlock additional resources for Afghans brought to the U.S. on "parole." The proposed legislation would also provide them an expedited path to a green card.

  • One senior administration official noted there has been strong bipartisan support for caring for Afghans, especially those who aided the U.S. While legislation is the priority, the administration has also explored potential back-up plans — including ways to expedite the asylum process for Afghans, the official confirmed.
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