The Long Tail of Afghan Relocation and Resettlement – Evacuate Our Allies Report
The Evacuate Our Allies (EOA) Coalition was formed in the wake of President Biden’s announcement of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in April 2021. Its mission is two-fold: to ensure the rapid relocation and rescue of vulnerable Afghans who are at risk of persecution from the Taliban, and to ensure a prompt and dignified resettlement in the United States. Its focus includes, but is not limited to, supporting those eligible for the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. Over the course of 2021, the coalition quickly grew from less than a dozen member organizations and experts to hundreds of members, including veterans organizations, faith-based groups, Afghan-American community and other civil society organizations, resettlement agencies, and immigration advocates. It is the largest and most diverse coalition focused on the downstream effects and general resettlement efforts related to the Afghan relocation. The EOA Coalition also maintains a unique and ongoing Operations Center (Ops Center), which is staffed 7 days a week and acts as a central resource for ongoing relocation information at each stage of the process. The Ops Center makes connections and referrals for groups working at different stages of the relocation journey and works with stakeholders including civil society organizations, self-organized volunteer groups, other coalitions, and individuals.
EOA has engaged with the Biden Administration and civil society to facilitate the relocation and resettlement of at-risk Afghans in the U.S. since the inception of the operation. Even before the fall of Kabul, our coalition was working with the Administration to preemptively relocate Special Immigrant Visa applicants, nearly 3,000 of whom landed at Ft. Lee, Virginia between July 28th and August 14th, 2021. While the military’s evacuation efforts ended with its withdrawal from Afghanistan on August 31, the coalition continues its efforts to evacuate, welcome, and support the resettlement of as many vulnerable Afghans as possible with the goal of reaching all of them. The EOA Coalition carries out its mission by influencing and shaping policy at the legislative and administrative levels.
In July, Congress passed the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021, surging funding to the Pentagon and the Department of State to evacuate and resettle Afghan interpreters and others who served in furtherance of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. The bill also added 8,000 more Special Immigrant Visas and eased eligibility requirements for the program. A few weeks later, after the fall of Kabul, EOA began working with Congress to ensure passage of the FY 2022 Continuing Resolution, which contained significant funding for Afghan resettlement as well as statutory solutions to resettle the over 80,000 Afghans who were evacuated and paroled into the United States.
In addition to its legislative efforts, the EOA Coalition also serves as the primary engagement vehicle for the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Unified Coordination Group (UCG) to work with civil society through Operation Allies Welcome. Through its five main liaison working groups, the coalition has hosted over 20 engagements with dozens of experts and officials representing over 12 federal agencies since September 2021 and has presented hundreds of policy and process recommendations to more humanely, efficiently, and generously support newly arrived Afghans and those that remain abroad in need of protection. This report is a compilation of feedback collected from AfghanAmerican community leaders, veterans groups, on-the-ground experts, and the following liaison working groups: Administrative Advocacy, Legal Services, Resettlement: Pre-Arrival, Resettlement: Post-Arrival, Children and Families, and Unaccompanied Children. The report focuses on areas of advancement and achievement in our partnership with the UCG and federal agencies, identifies challenges that prevent successful relocation and resettlement, and presents recommendations for policy changes that should be prioritized as Operation Allies Welcome enters its next phase.