More than 50,000 Afghan evacuees have been processed and released into American communities over the last four months, the Department of Homeland Security said Friday as it announced the closure of another of the camps that had been erected at military bases to house the Afghans.
Ft. Bliss, in Texas, joins two bases in Virginia in having emptied its population of evacuees. About 22,500 more Afghans are still spread among five other bases in Indiana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Virginia and Wisconsin.
More than 75,000 Afghans were brought to the U.S. in the airlift, dubbed Operation Allies Welcome, which the Biden administration launched as a last-ditch humanitarian effort. The goal was to assist Afghans who had helped the U.S. during the 20-year war effort, which ended Aug. 31.
They are being processed at the bases and then released at a rate of nearly 500 a day.
“We have made incredible progress over the last four months thanks to the dedication of our workforce and the backing Operation Allies Welcome has received from veterans, faith groups, non-governmental organizations and Americans across the country,” said Robert J. Fenton, Jr., the senior official overseeing the operation.
Most of those brought out are not actually eligible for the special visa designed to assist those who helped the war effort.
They have been admitted under Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ parole powers, short-circuiting the usual security checks such as in-person interviews conducted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services experts.
Those security lapses have drawn fierce criticism from Republicans on Capitol Hill, though the resettlement efforts continue at a brisk pace.
Once in the U.S., Afghans were brought to one of eight military bases to undergo medical screening and vaccinations, and to wait for refugee agencies to find spots for them to settle and live.