BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Afghan refugees have not resettled in Buffalo just yet, but local agencies are preparing for their arrival. Dr. Ahmad Wali is a former U.S. Army interpreter, and is now a board member of the Buffalo Afghan Community. He used a Special Immigrant Visa to resettle in Buffalo from Afghanistan in 2009.
“I find Buffalo the best place in the United States to start your new life,” Wali said. “My father, mother, and sibling are still in Afghanistan."
Karen Andolina Scott is the Executive Director of Journey's End Refugee Services. She tells me refugees are arriving as Special Immigrant Visa holders, as Special Immigrant Paroles, who can stay for two years, or as humanitarians.
“Our attorneys have been filing humanitarian parole applications to try and get people out of Afghanistan,” Scott said. “It’s highly emotional and intense here from the legal side.”
“It’s estimated right now that 80% of the Afghans arriving will come as Afghan paroles. The benefits, the services, the path to citizenship that formal refugees have is not available to paroles,” Scott said.
The Director of National Immigration Programs at World Relief, Hannah Vickner Hough, said the refugees are flying into Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C.
Near the airport, the U.S. government set up a mass COVID-19 vaccination site. The AP reports the evacuees are being given the single shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine and being tested for the coronavirus.
Then, the refugees are sent to one of three forts.
“At the forts, they are being given security screenings and medical exams for the refugee or immigrant processing,” Hough said.
It's unclear how long these processes will take and how many refugees are coming to Buffalo.
“There are so many people that still need to evacuate that it’s not clear to us how many people still need to evacuate,” Scott said.
“Right now, we have fallen down, and we really need help,” Wali said.