October 28, 2021

Hochul expects 240 Afghan refugees to come to New York City

In a press release Thursday, Governor Kathy Hochul announced that thousands of refugees from Afghanistan will be making their home in New York over the next six months. 
“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,” Governor Hochul said.
According to new guidance from the U.S. Department of State, New York City’s share of newcomers should amount to 240. About 100 will go to Albany, 200 to Rochester, 248 to Syracuse, 335 to Buffalo and 20 to Utica. 
Many, but not all, of the families have directly helped the U.S. government in the past, and have applied for special immigrant visas. The special immigrant visas [1] became available to Afghans in 2008, who either worked as translators or interpreters for the U.S. military, or were hired by the U.S. government.
The state will receive a small number of refugees who will call New York home compared to states like Texas and California, which expect to relocate upwards of 4,000 Afghans [2]. 
In New York City, the Bureau of Refugee Services is in charge of the process, which is part of the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. “Our role now is to welcome them into our communities, help them to rebuild their lives, and to embrace them as our neighbors,” said OTDA Commissioner Mike Hein. 
The OTDA and the Bureau of Refugee Services, Secretary of State Rossana Rosado and The New York State Office for New Americans will likely work with the mayor’s office to make sure that these families have the resources they need. 
Still, it’s not clear how these offices will work together to handle this new influx of refugees. The state was already expecting to receive 980 refugees and 340 special immigrant visa holders before President Biden’s plans to evacuate Afghanistan.
At a press briefing Aug. 31, Mayor Bill de Blasio said all the decisions will be made by the federal government, and that the city has JFK Airport on standby throughout the process. “The entire country will work together with the coordination of the federal government to ensure that many different places participate for the good of all.” He hasn’t given further details since then. 
The Bureau of Refugee Services offers several plans, like New York State Enhanced Services to Refugees Program. This includes employment services, English language training and more for SIV holders and newly arrived refugees. There are also cash assistance programs, medical assistance programs, services for older refugees. 
“Many of us cannot fathom the fear and hardships endured by the Afghans now arriving in our state,” said Commissioner Hein.

[1] https://immigrationforum.org/article/fact-sheet-overview-of-the-special-immigrant-visa-programs/
[2] https://www.axios.com/afghan-refugees-each-state-data-bea47ca4-0212-4a41-98bd-a2ea9f15a5bc.html

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