Among the scores of refugees the U.S. has admitted from war-torn Afghanistan are hundreds of children who were evacuated without their parents and are now in government custody waiting to see if they will be reunited.
About 1,450 children were evacuated without their parents, according to numbers from the Office of Refugee Resettlement obtained by CNN.
Some of the children got separated from the their families as they were attempting to flee Afghanistan together, and some lost communication with their parents when the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul was bombed. The bombing also killed some of the children’s parents as well as 13 members of the American military.
Out of the 1,450 children who came to the U.S. without their parents, most have been released to sponsors, who are sometimes the other family members they fled with or family members who were already living in America.
However, about 250 children are still in government custody, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, and most have no family members with whom to reunite in the U.S.
Some children have been able to contact their families and friends in Afghanistan through WhatsApp, but some have not been able to get in touch, CNN reported. The family reunification process is complicated further by some children having their names and dates of birth recorded incorrectly on their official U.S. evacuation documents, the outlet reported.
In August, President Biden pulled all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, marking the end of the longest war in U.S. history, spanning nearly two decades.
Biden’s withdrawal was widely regarded as botched by both sides of the aisle.
Up to 15,000 Americans were still trapped in Afghanistan after U.S. troops left and the Taliban took control of the country. The State Department said at the time that the U.S. government “cannot ensure safe passage” to Kabul’s international airport for U.S. citizens still trapped in the country and hoping to catch an evacuation flight.
Meanwhile, the U.S. left a substantial amount of military equipment in Afghanistan that ended up in the hands of the Taliban. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan acknowledged that “a fair amount” of U.S. defense materials had fallen into the hands of the Taliban.
Over the last two decades, tens of thousands of Afghan refugees have been resettled in the U.S., including nearly 37,000 who were evacuated just as the U.S. pulled its troops out. In 2019 there were an estimated 132,500 Afghan immigrants in the U.S.
Several states have said they will not accept Afghan refugees into their states for resettlement. Two Republican governors, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, both said they would refuse to accept refugees.
“We do not want them coming here unless we know they are an ally and a friend, and that they don’t want to destroy this country,” Noem said.
Other governors have taken a more open approach, Arizona’s Republican Gov. Doug Ducey saying his state “wholeheartedly welcomes Afghans who served alongside America’s military forces.”
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