More than 200 Afghans who were forced to flee their country after President Biden’s chaotic withdrawal resulted in the Taliban’s take over of the war-torn country, are set to call New York City home, accounting for roughly a fifth of refugees bound for the Empire State, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Thursday.
The figures from Hochul’s office show that the biggest contingent of the 1,143 evacuees coming to New York is bound for the Buffalo area, which will become home to 335 of them. The five boroughs of the Big Apple and surrounding suburbs will host the second biggest share, 240.
“New York has a storied history of welcoming those seeking a safe haven from violence and persecution — a proud tradition our state continues today by helping evacuees from Afghanistan rebuild,” Hochul said in a statement.
“The heart-wrenching images and stories of people fleeing their homeland were a call to action that New York State is more than willing to answer,” she added. “We welcome our new Afghan friends with open arms and pledge to provide them the assistance they can rely on to rebuild anew.”
New York is already home to approximately 7,500 Afghans statewide.
Nearly 130,000 people were airlifted out of Afghanistan, including Americans, allies and Afghans who worked for the U.S. government, related organizations or faced threats from the Taliban — like civil rights advocates.
Many of those people are still in transit, undergoing security vetting and screening in other countries, including Germany, Spain, Kuwait and Qatar. Others were taken to eight different military bases in the U.S. for vetting and medical screening.
The checks must be completed before they can be released and resettled elsewhere in the country.
Federal officials have said they expect some 50,000 Afghans will gain residency in the U.S. as part of “Operation Allies Welcome.” Many of them translated, drove or otherwise assisted the military during the two-decade long war in that country.
Many of the Afghans who worked for the U.S. government have undergone years of vetting already before they were hired, and then again to apply for a special immigrant visa for U.S. allies.
Despite the rounds of checks, some Republican lawmakers have questioned whether the screening is thorough enough.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) this week confronted Secretary of State Antony Blinken about child brides being brought to the United States from Afghanistan amid the chaotic withdrawal by the Biden administration, demanding to know what guidance the State Department has been provided to rescue minors among the evacuees that have been victims of sexual abuse.