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Afghan families start arriving in Kentucky

According to the Kentucky Office for Refugees, refugee agencies in Kentucky can help up to 775 Afghans.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Refugee resettlement agencies report Afghan families have started to arrive in Kentucky.

Kentucky Refugee Ministries Executive Director John Koehlinger said they've resettled two families in the past week.

A family of five left Kabul Wednesday and was resettled in Lexington Saturday. 

A family of four was resettled in Louisville on Aug. 23. 

"It's a relief when people do make it here and we do get those travel notifications and we are able to go to the airport and welcome people and let them know they're safe," Koehlinger said.

The two families coming to Kentucky in the past week came with Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs). 

According to the Kentucky Office for Refugees, Kentucky resettlement agencies have agreed to assist up to 775 Afghans. 

Proposed number of Afghans agencies say they could assist:

  • Louisville: Up to 350
  • Lexington: Up to 125
  • Bowling Green: Up to 200
  • Owensboro: Up to 100

It's not confirmed if or when those Afghan nationals will be resettled in Kentucky, but if agencies are standing by if needed. 

Koehlinger said Kentucky Refugee Ministries is waiting on 6 more SIV families, a total of 17 Afghan nationals, to make it to the Bluegrass State.

"Our minds are also in all the people who didn't get out, who didn't get protection and that seems like a significant number in this dire circumstance in Afghanistan," Koehlinger said.  

Paths to America for vulnerable Afghans

There are three main paths vulnerable Afghans can take to get into America. 

First, the SIV program, which started in 2009, allows Afghan nationals who worked for or on behalf of the U.S. government in Afghanistan or Afghan nationals who've served as interpreters or translators to be eligible for SIVs.

People can also apply for refugee status. 

RELATED: President Biden praises Afghanistan airlift, defends departure from 'forever war'

Afghan refugees who have been or fear they will be persecuted in their home country are eligible for that. 

Lastly, Afghans can apply for humanitarian parole.

Humanitarian parole is rarely used in America, but the program allows the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to grant people with urgent humanitarian reasons parole into the United States temporarily.

"I don't think they would have been evacuated by the U.S. military and consular officers if they didn't feel they were targeted for some support of the U.S.," Koehlinger said. 

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