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Update on Afghan Arrivals

The IRC in Denver is very grateful for the outpouring of generosity from communities across Colorado during these last couple of months as we have welcomed and resettled unprecedented numbers of Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) recipients and humanitarian parolees.

From August 1-October 31, the IRC in Denver resettled 288 people, 21 of whom are SIVs and 202 of whom are Afghan evacuees arriving through the Afghan Placement Assistance program. This is a huge increase in arrivals compared to the past fiscal year. In just one week in October, our office resettled roughly 70 people – compared to earlier in 2021, where we resettled 13 people in an average month, and 161 people for the entirety of Fiscal Year 2021.

The IRC in Denver anticipates resettling at least 500 Afghan evacuees before the end of February 2022, and possibly more as more Afghans continue to arrive to the U.S. In total, 100,000 evacuees are expected to be resettled in the U.S.; as of November 1, of this number, nearly 68,000 had either arrived to local communities or were being processed at safe havens on U.S. military bases. At the bases, individuals are receiving initial support obtaining needed documentation and applying for employment authorization documents, undergoing medical examinations and immunizations, and getting connected to their resettlement agency prior to booking their travel to their final destination, whether to Colorado or to other states.

Altogether, Colorado anticipates welcoming up to 2,000 Afghans who will be assisted by the IRC, ECDC African Community Center, and Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains, as well as community sponsors. The IRC national network (28 offices across the U.S.) anticipates resettling a total of 10,700 Afghans, but this is subject to change and increase.

As you can imagine, the increase in arrivals is not without its challenges. In order to scale-up quickly, the IRC in Denver has created roughly 50 new staffing positions to not only meet the needs of Afghan arrivals, but also in preparation for increased refugee arrivals in Fiscal Year 2022. The Presidential Determination has been set at 125,000 refugees, restoring refugee admissions to a level more consistent with historic norms. Many caseworkers and other staff are working around the clock to meet the urgent needs of new arrivals, with the help of volunteers for housing set-ups and airport pick-ups. This has been an immense lift and we are truly thankful for the support of our volunteers and donors!

Other challenges and barriers the IRC in Denver is facing include:

  • Finding safe, affordable, sustainable housing in the Denver metro-area, including for large families and for clients with special needs.
  • Raising an additional $500,000 in funds to fill gaps in direct assistance for clients and staffing expenses. A foreseen need for Afghan humanitarian parolees will be legal assistance. Currently, parolees will need to apply for asylum in order to remain in the U.S., which is necessary so long as Afghanistan remains unsafe for their return. There is no federal funding for this legal representation at present, so the IRC in Denver will look to private foundations and donors to support the growth of its Legal Program and pro bono attorney network, as well as pro se asylum workshops, to ensure all clients requiring assistance applying for asylum can receive qualified legal advice and/or representation as they present their asylum claim to USCIS officers.
  • Providing all of the furnishings and household items needed to welcome people. While we were quickly overwhelmed in the early weeks of the crisis, and our office and storage units were overflowing, much of our stock is now depleted and we are in need of these items. See below to link to our current wishlist.

The IRC in Denver would like to share a warm thank you and shout-out to all the partners, foundations, companies, and individuals that have supported this work so far!

Specifically, we are grateful to the Colorado Health Foundation; the Denver Foundation; Caring for Colorado Foundation; the Rose Community Foundation; the Pema Chödrön Foundation; Chambers Initiative; Airbnb; Lyft; Uber; the Rockefeller Foundation; DoorDash; Team Rubicon; and the 450+ Coloradans who have generously donated to our Afghan Emergency Assistance Fund on Colorado Gives, not to mention the many other individuals, local foundations, schools, companies, and faith groups who have supported via check and in-kind donations.

If you would like to continue to support the IRC in Denver as we welcome hundreds of new arrivals, we invite you to peruse the following options:

For all other ideas or inquiries on how you can support the IRC in Denver right now, please email pamela.encinas [at] rescue.org. On behalf of all staff and clients – thank you!