16% of Afghan evacuees are US citizens or SIV holders

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16% of Afghan evacuees are US citizens or SIV holders

During a virtual hearing with the Homeland Security Committee focused on “Worldwide Threats to the Homeland: 20 Years After 9/11,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas revealed that out of the 60,000 Afghan nationals evacuated during the chaotic withdrawal of troops, approximately 7 percent are US citizens, around 6 percent are lawful permanent residents and roughly 3 percent hold Special Immigrant Visas (SIV). 

The remainder is a combination of SIV applicants whose applications have not been finalized, locally employed staff, journalists, human rights activists, and other vulnerable Afghans who would qualify under refugee status. 

The news comes the same week as the Biden administration’s move to increase the limit on the number of refugees who can be resettled in the US. On Monday, the State Department informed Congress that it will be increasing the limit to 125,000 people for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, up from the 62,500 cap set in May. 

Approximately 40,000 Afghan citizens have been brought to the US in recent days, according to the Wall Street Journal, however none have been formally classified as refugees due to the haste with which they were taken out of Afghanistan.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.
Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said out of 60,000 Afghan evacuees, 7 percent are US citizens, around 6 percent are lawful permanent residents and roughly 3 percent hold special immigrant visas.
Greg Nash/Pool via REUTERS

This month, the White House has also asked Congress to make welfare benefits available to Afghan nationals paroled into the nation, as a part of a request for $6.4 billion in funds to help resettle the Afghan evacuees.

Part of the funding would go towards authorizing Afghan evacuees who have been paroled into the US and cleared background checks or screenings to receive welfare benefits and qualify for a driver’s license or ID card. To be eligible, all individuals must have been paroled in the US between July 30 and Sept. 30 of this year. 

Since the withdrawal ended last month, thousands of refugees have been transported to US military bases that can collectively house up to 25,000 evacuees. Others will be transported to different states across the country, and at least 200 will be calling New York City their new home, according to New York Gov. Kathy Hochul. 

Afghan evacuees.
The State Department informed Congress that it will be increasing the resettling limit from 62,500 to 125,000 people.
Shakib Rahmani/AFP via Getty Images

Many have remained skeptical about the number of Afghan refugees entering the country, suggesting it opens the possibility of security threats. 

In early September, 26 GOP senators estimated in a letter to President Biden that more than 57,000 Afghans were evacuated who are not US citizens, green card holders or eligible for the Special Immigrant Visas.

The lawmakers said they were “concerned by reports that ineligible individuals, including Afghans with ties to terrorist organizations or serious, violent criminals, were evacuated alongside innocent refugee families.”

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