Central Florida leaders working on plan to help Afghan refugees resettle

Rep. Anna Eskamani working with local groups to coordinate housing, supply needs

ORLANDO, Fla. – As the deadline for the Biden administration to evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghanistan’s who helped the U.S. during the 20 years of conflict closes in, the federal government is working on providing special visas for refugees resettling in America.

“What the federal government is doing is they have the special immigration visa or the SIV and they also have something called a priority 2 visa which is supposed to broaden the scope because not every person in Afghanistan qualifies for SIV,” Florida District 47 Rep. Anna Eskamani said.

The special immigration visa was designed by the federal government to help Afghans who have collaborated with the U.S.

The process normally takes about 2 years but advocates and some lawmakers are trying to speed up the application process for these visas to move people out more quickly, before the deadline of Aug. 31.

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Once approved they are allowed to stay in the U.S. permanently with their families.

“What they’re gonna need is housing support, they’re gonna need supplies; we’re gonna need folks to greet them at the airports and their different points of contact to our community. We’re also gonna need storage--storage of supplies,” Eskamani said.

The representative said she hopes to soon be working with a local organization in Central Florida that will aid refugees with housing and employment.

Afghans being evacuated from Kabul who are not eligible for the special visas could still qualify for U.S. refugee resettlement.

“Central Florida actually at this time doesn’t have an affiliate organization that is contracted with the office of refugee resettlement. There are groups who are seeking to have that contract and so a lot of our efforts are, right now, kind of in advance of what we expect to be Afghan refugees coming to our community,” Eskamani said.

Right now, it’s still unclear how many afghan families could arrive in Central Florida.

“Florida receives upwards of 5,000 refugees every single year,” she said. “We’ve already seen some news of Afghan refugees coming to Jacksonville and Jacksonville does have local affiliate organizations that are contracted through the office of refugee resettlement ... in the case of Central Florida it’s a little more difficult to predict because we don’t see a contract yet.”

About the Author:

Carolina Cardona highlights all Central Florida has to offer in her stories on News 6 at Nine. She joined News 6 in June 2018 from the Telemundo station in Philadelphia.