Jack Markell, the point person resettling 55,600 Afghan refugees from U.S. military bases into communities across the country, told CNN Saturday that he is enlisting the help of veterans that have ties to the refugees to get them into permanent homes.
"This is just an amazing opportunity to, frankly, do what our veterans have been asking us to do, which is provide a safe and dignified welcome to Afghans who served by our side in Afghanistan, and who now want to build their own lives here," the former Democratic Governor of Delaware said.
Markell said the Biden Administration is trying to "increase options" for the thousands of Afghan refugees that fled the war-torn nation during the chaotic U.S. military withdrawal in August.
Those evacuated, including Afghans who helped the United States during the two-decade war, have been staying on U.S. military bases, but now need to find a permanent home.
"We've been there. We understand what it's like to come from that experience and then find yourself dropped into this environment and how quite frankly overwhelming that it can be," Matt Zeller, a security fellow at the Truman National Security Project, and Afghan was veteran, told CNN.
"The make-or-break factor between endemic poverty and making it in America is whether or not you have a veteran assisting you. And the earlier that occurs in the process, the more successful (it is)."
Zeller told the news outlet that he would let an interpreter he spoke with before Kabul fell into his home to help get him settled.
"He calls me his guardian angel," Zeller said, adding he'd be willing to house the interpreter and his family. "I just want to hug him."
According to the CNN story, some refugee resettlement offices closed during former President Donald Trump's term because of the small number of people coming into the country and using the system.
Now, with thousands of Afghan refugees waiting to start the next chapter of their lives, the system has to gear up again.
"We just didn't have the capacity after the beating we took under the Trump administration," said Mark Hetfield, the president and CEO of HIAS, a refugee resettlement agency.
"Necessity is the mother of invention. This is the outcome of that."
Markell told CNN that he does not know how long it will be to clear the refugees out of the military bases and see them permanently housed.
"The housing issue is a challenging one for sure. Every American knows that housing is expensive and in short supply," Markell told CNN. "We have been very fortunate that a number of organizations, like Airbnb, have stepped up. And these sponsorship circles, because they're so rooted in their communities, will have the advantage of knowing those communities and finding additional housing opportunities."
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