More than 850 displaced Afghans are making their way to Ohio under federal program

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio’s eight resettlement agencies will take in a total of 855 displaced Afghans in the coming months.

On Wednesday, the Biden administration started notifying governors of how many Afghans each state will admit out of the first group of nearly 37,000 evacuees who made their way to the United States during the military withdrawal last month.

Across the country, California and Texas will resettle the highest number of Afghans –– 5,255 and 4,481, respectively, according to State Department data for the Afghan Placement and Assistance program obtained by The Associated Press. Eleven states are slated to take in more evacuees than Ohio. Only four states and Washington, D.C., will not participate in the federal program.

In Ohio, five cities –– Columbus, Cleveland, Akron, Cincinnati and Toledo –– will receive 345, 285, 150, 50 and 25 Afghan nationals, respectively.

“These are individuals who have been partners with United States and deserve our support in return for the support they’ve given us,” Gov. Mike DeWine said in a Thursday news release. “Thank you to the resettlement agencies and communities who have stepped forward and demonstrated they have the resources necessary to help these individuals in their time of need.”

More: Obamas, Bushes, Clintons help launch organization to assist Afghan refugees

What is humanitarian parole?

These Afghan families are in the U.S. on humanitarian parole, a little-known process that allows immigrants in exceptional circumstances to enter the country without visas. They all have to undergo rigorous security and medical screening, including getting their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, before heading to their assigned location. They will then have two years to regularize their immigration status.

As with traditional refugee resettlement, local agencies will get a one-time $2,275 stipend for every parolee they relocate. $1,225 will go directly towards paying for the person's material needs, and the rest will cover the agencies' administrative expenses.

While the parolees are authorized to work, they do not qualify for the full range of resettlement services that refugees are entitled to. Parolees under 18 can participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and those under 21 and pregnant women are eligible for Medicaid. But they will not receive federally funded cash assistance typically available to refugees.

Resettlement agencies are hoping to provide additional services to parolees to meet their housing, employment and medical needs. But it remains unclear what they will be able to do, said to Angie Plummer, executive director at the Community Refugee and Immigration Services.

“We don’t know what types of programs the Afghans will be entitled to yet,” Plummer said. “That's going to take Congress to make a decision.”

More: Measles cases halt Afghan evacuee flights to US from two key bases​​​​​​​

Follow Yilun Cheng on Twitter: @ChengYilun

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio set to admit 855 displaced Afghans in coming months

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