Biden directs DHS to take lead on resettling Afghan refugees
Originally Published in The Hill
Joseph Choi – August 29, 20214
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Sunday announced it has been directed by President Biden to take the lead in resettling refugees who have been evacuated out of Afghanistan to escape the Taliban.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced that Robert J. Fenton Jr. will lead the Unified Coordination Group. The group will take charge of multiple services as part of the resettlement effort including immigration processing, COVID-19 testing and resettlement support.
Fenton has worked at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) since 1996 and currently serves as regional administrator for FEMA region nine. Before 2015, he also served as deputy associate administrator in the Office of Response and Recovery at FEMA. He has participated in several large-scale recovery operations, including following Hurricane Katrina and the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.
“I am honored by the confidence placed in me and I am privileged to be able to contribute to this vital mission,” Fenton said in the announcement.
“The Department of Homeland Security is prepared to serve as the lead federal agency coordinating efforts across the federal government to welcome vulnerable Afghans to our Nation in a way that is consistent with our laws and our values,” Mayorkas said in a press release.
“This mission reflects the best of who we are as a country and our Department is honored by the trust the President has placed in us. There is no one better than Bob Fenton to help lead our efforts,” Mayorkas added. “Bob has dedicated his career to public service and has decades of experience managing complex and critically important missions. He will help lead this interagency effort with incredible adeptness and the highest standards of honor and integrity.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday said the U.S. has evacuated more than 110,000 people from Kabul since the Taliban overthrew Afghanistan’s government.
“The very significant majority of those people are Afghans, and of those Afghans who’ve been evacuated, there are thousands upon thousands who are Special Immigrant Visa program members – that is, the people who worked side-by-side directly for our diplomats, directly for our troops over the years,” Blinken said while appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
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