Highly biased story from Reuters.

 


 

Afghan evacuees leaving military bases in U.S. before resettlement

 

 Something unexpected is happening at U.S. military bases hosting Afghan evacuees: Many hundreds of them are simply leaving before receiving U.S. resettlement services.

 

The number of “independent departures,” which top 1000 and could be higher, has not been previously reported. But the phenomenon is raising alarms among immigration advocates.

 

In a statement, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spokesperson declined to comment on the figures provided to Reuters by sources but said people who had left the bases “generally” had ties to the United States, like family members of friends, and resources to support themselves.

 

But leaving early could cost other Afghan evacuees critical benefits – like expedited work permits – and create a slew of legal problems down the road, given the complexities of the U.S. immigration system.

 

“It’s a giant can of worms,” said one ICE official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

 

“This could lead to years and years of terrible immigration status problems.”

 

The benefits the evacuees have received have been more limited, so far, than what’s offered to refugees. But that appears set to change following legislation passed on Thursday by Congress – despite opposition from Republicans – that would give Afghan evacuees the more extensive assistance usually provided to refugees.

 

Immigration experts say Afghans who leave the bases are not breaking U.S. laws and military officials have no legal authority to hold law-abiding Afghans against their will at any of the eight locations hosting 53,000 Afghans who fled the Taliban on U.S. evacuation flights.

 

The scale of the independent departures vary from base to base, according to the sources – more than 300 alone at Fort Bliss in Texas – a figure that is likely to alarm both advocates and critics.

 

However, U.S. officials stress that all of the Afghans leaving U.S. bases had already undergone security screening before arriving in the United States.

 

Reuters viewed a document, entitled “Departee Information,” that is meant to warn Afghans considering leaving before completing their resettlement. It reminds them that, on base, they can get their immigration paperwork processed and even cash to help pay for travel to their destination in the United States.

 

“Once you leave this base, you forfeit these advantages and may not return,” it reads.

 

Afghans leaving U.S. bases can be a touchy issue in some parts of the country, particularly given media coverage of assaults by Afghans at Fort McCoy, in Wisconsin, and Fort Bliss.

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