EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The Department of Defense is considering temporarily housing Afghan refugees in military facilities in Texas and Wisconsin.
The military had processed more than 2,000 Afghan citizens as of Monday afternoon and more were expected as civilian evacuations from Kabul continued, a Defense Department official said. Many of those Afghans were at Fort Lee, Va.
“As we prepare for even more arrivals, U.S. NorthCom and U.S. Army North are working to prepare additional capacity to support refugee relocation in the U.S., including temporary sites under assessment in Fort Bliss, Texas and Camp McCoy Wisconsin,” said Garry Reid, director of DOD’s Afghan Crisis Action Group. “There may be other sites identified is additional capacity is needed.”
The U.S. military is preparing for the arrival of 22,000 to 28,000 refugees, most coming under the Special Immigrant Visa program for those who were employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in the past.
“As is the case in Fort Lee, persons who come to these locations would have been pre-screened by (the Department of Homeland Security) to enter on condition of full immigration processing once they arrive,” Reid said.
Border House members react to Afghan crisis
House members who represent El Paso and Southern New Mexico reacted with empathy but also concern to the rout of Afghan forces at the hands of the Taliban, a situation prompting the emergency evacuation of U.S. citizens and Afghan allies.
“After 20 years, it was long past time to leave Afghanistan,” said U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-New Mexico. “But it did not have to be this disaster. The Biden administration presides over a complete tactical failure and international embarrassment, as well as a tragedy for families who will suffer under a new Taliban regime.”
U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, in June helped spearhead passage of the ALLIES Act, a bill that helps expedite the Special Immigrant Visas for Afghan interpreters and U.S. allies.
“I served multiple tours in Afghanistan and worked with Afghan interpreters who served the United States honorably while knowing the great risk it would put them at. […] We cannot leave behind the Afghan people who served and fought alongside us,” Gonzales said at the time.
On Monday, Gonzales expressed his disappointment with recent developments.
“The series of events happening in Afghanistan is angering and saddening,” he said. “Americans, including myself, have fought and many have died in Afghanistan for two decades to ensure another 9/11 tragedy never happens again on our shores. The (Biden) administration’s careless approach to allow it to get it to this dire point will not be forgotten on the world stage any time soon.”
But U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, said the priority now is to save U.S. and Afghan lives.
“The situation in Afghanistan is tragic for everyone who has worked tirelessly over 20 years to root out terrorism and create stability,” she tweeted. “There is plenty of blame all the way around, but for now our focus must be doing absolutely everything possible to save lives.”