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Afghan Families Arriving In San Diego As Airlift Continues

An Afghan family walks toward a medical screening station while in-processing at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Aug. 23, 2021.
Department of Defense
An Afghan family walks toward a medical screening station while in-processing at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Aug. 23, 2021.

Afghan families are arriving in San Diego as the airlift continues in Kabul, which is putting strain on local aid agencies.

Earlier in the year, the number of Afghans coming to San Diego under the Special Immigration Visa program had slowed to a trickle, partly because of COVID-19 and partly because of delays that began under the Trump Administration.

Afghan Families Arriving In San Diego As Airlift Continues
Listen to this story by Steve Walsh.

All of that has turned around the last two weeks, as the evacuation continues in Kabul, says Etleva Bejko, Director of Refugee and Immigration Services with Jewish Family Services of San Diego.

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“We are only receiving about 24 hour notice that someone is being processed, which makes our preparation and planning for residency much more challenging, obviously,” she said.

Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey on Monday became the fourth U.S. base assigned to take in Afghans while they complete their paperwork.

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“Our goal would be is to reach the ability ... to build out to about 25,000 capacity. We aren't there yet,” said Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby.

Afghans coming into the country under the program are expected to stay only a few days before moving on to their final destination inside the country. The people coming into San Diego already have some local tie. They typically stay with the host family, but finding them a permanent place to live is the first priority, says Bejko.

“The first thing we need to make sure that they have furnished apartments but doing so on such a very short notice has been pretty challenging,” she said.

Jewish Family Services is asking for donations, everything from pots and pans to people who can drive them to their new place, after they arrive.

“Our goal is to make sure that, as they come here, that we provide the same level of services that we've been able to provide when we have more time to plan and make sure that those families do not fall through the cracks,” she said.

At the moment, Jewish Family Services is seeing one new family arriving every day, which they expect to happen for as long as the airlift continues.

Afghan Families Arriving In San Diego As Airlift Continues