With New Jersey welcoming Afghan refugees fleeing to the U.S., Gov. Phil Murphy has assembled a task force to respond to ease their transition.
The Task Force on Afghan Refugee Assistance, chaired by New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMAVA) Commissioner Brigadier General Dr. Lisa J. Hou, will serve to coordinate New Jersey’s efforts to appropriately prepare for and respond to the arrival of Afghan refugees and special immigration visa (SIV) holders in New Jersey, according to a statement from the governor’s office announcing the formation of the task force on Aug. 27.
“As Afghan refugees arrive at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, we must act to ensure that the state is prepared to adequately receive and assist these individuals that courageously assisted our country in the War on Terror,” said Murphy. “Our newly established task force will oversee efforts to welcome refugees and their families to their new lives in the United States and New Jersey.”
The move comes after the Biden Administration began the process of housing Afghans able to escape from the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan at Joint Base McGuire-Dix Lakehurst in Burlington County. The action comes after an Aug. 22 letter in which Murphy told President Joe Biden New Jersey stood ready to welcome our Afghan allies.
“We will welcome Afghan refugees with open arms here in New Jersey at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst,” said Murphy in a Facebook posting. “Our state has always served as a shining beacon of hope to the world, and we will do everything in our power to help these refugees rebuild their lives.”
The first group of Afghan refugees arrived last week. Citing security concerns, officials did not say how many people arrived, how many more are expected or whether air transport has been or will be used. But the U.S. Air Force is proposing the location serve as a temporary shelter for up to 9,500 Afghans who have Afghan Special Immigrant visas for up to 365 days.
Lead by Afghan War Veteran
Interaction with the residents of Afghanistan is familiar territory for DMAVA Commissioner Hou. A veteran of the War in Afghanistan, Hou served as a field surgeon and sole medical provider on an Afghanistan National Army base and was responsible for providing routine and advanced emergency medical care in the combat theater for more than 600 coalition soldiers, contractors, and foreign nationals.
“The Task Force stands ready to support our mission partners,” said Hou. “We recognize the sacrifice of our Afghan allies and American and NATO service members these past 20 years. We pledge every effort to alleviate the human tragedy unfolding in Afghanistan.”
Task Force Objectives
The executive orders said the task force will be responsible for:
- Developing a mechanism for identifying Afghan refugees who arrive in New Jersey and plan to remain for some period of time;
- Managing internal efforts among Executive Branch departments and agencies to welcome and provide support to Afghan refugees and SIV holders as they arrive and/or resettle in New Jersey;
- Coordinating communications with representatives of the federal government, including the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Defense, regarding the relocation of Afghan refugees;
- Overseeing the provision of vital support and emergency healthcare services for those who need it upon arrival in New Jersey, including COVID-19 testing and vaccination as needed;
- Creating an intake mechanism for organizations and individuals seeking to provide aid and support to Afghan refugees to contact the Task Force, evaluating and keeping track of such organizations and individuals, and connecting such organizations and individuals with those in need of assistance; and
- Providing any other necessary support to ensure the safe entry and relocation to New Jersey of Afghan refugees.
The Task Force will consist of the governor’s Chief of Staff, Chief Counsel and Chief Policy Advisor; the Executive Director of the Governor’s Disaster Recovery Office; and the designees from the New Jersey State Police; the Department of Health; the Department of Human Services; and the Department of Children & Families among others.
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