At least 50,000 Afghans are expected to be admitted into the United States as part of the country's commitment to help people who worked for the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan, the head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) says.
Tens of thousands of Afghans have already arrived in the United States after making it through security vetting and are being housed on military bases around the country. They are receiving medical treatment, assistance with submitting immigration applications, and other services aimed at helping them resettle in the United States.
Alejandro Mayorkas, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), said on September 3 that exactly how many more will come and how long it will take to bring them to the United States remain open questions, but that the U.S. commitment is "an enduring one."
Mayorkas said there have been some evacuees who have been stopped at transit countries because of “derogatory information,” though he provided no details. It is unclear what happens to Afghans who don't make it through the security screening at the overseas transit points in countries such as Germany, Spain, Kuwait, and Qatar.
Mayorkas's comments were part of a Biden administration move to provide more details of what the White House is calling Operation Allies Welcome.
The DHS, the National Security Council, and other federal agencies will work “to ensure vulnerable Afghans who pass screening and vetting reviews are safely and efficiently resettled here in the United States,” said Karine Jean-Pierre, principal deputy press secretary at the White House.
More than 120,000 people were flown out of Kabul's airport in a massive airlift to evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghans who helped in the American war effort. Though the airlift ended on August 31 with the withdrawal of American troops, Taliban officials have said they would allow people with valid travel papers to leave.
The Afghans planning to resettle in the United States have received or are in the process of receiving what's known as a Special Immigrant Visa for people who worked for the American military or NATO as interpreters or in some other capacity and for Afghans considered particularly vulnerable under Taliban rule.
“We have a moral imperative to protect them, to support those who have supported this nation," said Mayorkas, who as a child arrived in the United States as a refugee from Cuba with his family.
While he said the United States expects to admit at least 50,000 Afghans, he suggested there was no set limit or a specific time frame.