150 Afghan refugees headed to Nevada in first wave; California getting more than 5,200

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — About 150 Afghan refugees will be headed to Nevada, part of the first group of the nearly 37,000 evacuees that are coming to the United States.

California will be getting more than 5,200 refugees, according to State Department data for the Afghan Placement and Assistance program obtained by The Associated Press.

Texas, Washington, Oklahoma and Arizona are the other destinations for the largest numbers of evacuees. In all, 13 states are getting 1,000 or more evacuees, and only three states in the continental U.S. are getting none — South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming.

DULLES, VIRGINIA – AUGUST 31: Refugees are led through the departure terminal to a bus at Dulles International Airport after being evacuated from Kabul following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan on August 31, 2021 in Dulles, Virginia. The Department of Defense announced yesterday that the U.S. military had completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, ending 20 years of war. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

In an Aug. 19 statement, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said the state would welcome Afghan refugees and those who helped U.S. forces.

The governor and his Office for New Americans said Nevada has a long-standing tradition of resettling refugees and helping them achieve a brighter future in the Silver State.

Nevada’s refugee resettlement process is administered and overseen by nonprofit organizations. Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada serves as the Refugee Resettlement Office for the State.

The Biden administration has been notifying governors and state refugee coordinators across the country about how many evacuees would be headed their way.

The administration has requested funding from Congress to help resettle 65,000 Afghans in the United States by the end of this month and 95,000 by September 2022. President Joe Biden tapped the former governor of his home state of Delaware, Jack Markell, to temporarily serve as his point person on resettling Afghan evacuees in the United States.

FILE – In this Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, file photo, Army Pfc. Kimberly Hernandez gives a high-five to a girl evacuated from Kabul, Afghanistan, before boarding a bus after they arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport, in Chantilly, Va. U.S. religious groups of many faiths are gearing up to assist the thousands of incoming refugees. Roughly 400 Afghan refugees will resettle in Idaho over the next fiscal year, officials with the International Rescue Committee in Boise said on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. About 50,000 Afghans are expected to be admitted to the United States under a program called “Operation Allies Welcome.” The group will include translators, drivers and others who helped the U.S. military during the 20-year war and who feared reprisals from the Taliban after they quickly seized power last month. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

States with a historically large number of Afghans who resettled in the U.S. over the last 20 years — including California, Maryland, Texas and Virginia — are again welcoming a disproportionate number of evacuees, according to the data. Many gravitate to northern Virginia, the Maryland suburbs of D.C. and northern California — some of the most expensive housing markets in the country.

Oklahoma, which over the course of the 20-year war had resettled a relatively small number of Afghans, is slated to resettle 1,800 new arrivals.

Many of the new evacuees requested to be resettled in those states because they already have family and close friends living in those states, according to two U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the calls to state government officials. Resettlement agencies also have a large presence and capacity in many of those states.

The Afghan evacuees go through a Department of Homeland Security-coordinated process of security vetting before being admitted. And every evacuee who comes into the United States also goes through health screening. Evacuees who are 12 and older are required to get the COVID-19 vaccination as a term of their humanitarian parolee status after entering the country.

Still, there have been unexpected complications.

U.S.-bound flights for evacuees who had been staying temporarily in third-country processing sites were halted last week after measles cases were discovered among several Afghans who had recently arrived in the U.S.

Currently, each Afghan evacuee is slated to receive $1,225 to help with rent, furniture and food and provide a small amount of pocket money. Biden has called on Congress to take action to ensure that the recent arrivals have access to the same benefits as refugees.

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