Afghan evacuees

Loudoun Conference Center to Be Processing Center for Afghan Evacuees

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A Loudoun County, Virginia, conference center will serve as a processing center for pre-screened Afghan evacuees, who could begin arriving as soon as March 1.

Some residents who attended a meeting with county officials Thursday night complained they had not been given enough information about the plan.

Loudoun County Board Chair Phyllis Randall began the meeting by announcing the federal contract to use the National Conference Center in Lansdowne as a processing center for a second wave of Afghan evacuees had just been signed.

Unlike the Dulles Expo Center, where evacuees who arrived last summer were processed, the National Conference Center is near a neighborhood and schools.

“And I want to know why you indicated that this wasn’t a done deal and why the citizens of the county had no say in this,” one resident said.

“I’m in the industry, the intelligence industry, none of these people have been vetted,” another resident said. He added, “All this stuff about them being vetted is not true. You’re putting us at risk, our children at risk.”

Sheriff Mike Chapman’s complaints that the county had not been given enough information about the plan led to a personal apology from the Department of Homeland Security secretary and a promise the site would be fenced with security cameras installed.

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A DHS representative described the estimated 1,000-2,000 people expected to arrive per month as mostly women and children, family of interpreters, and others who worked to support the U.S. military in Afghanistan.

“These aren’t people that are strangers to us in phase two,” the DHS official said. “These are people that we know who they are, that we’re identifying and putting them on a list and then moving them to this location.”

“I don’t trust the DHS for anything,” one woman said. “I think they snowballed the Board of County Supervisors by telling them things and then they’re going to do something else.” 

The conference center, which is privately owned, has about 900 rooms – some of them suites that can accommodate families.

DHS says the contract to use the conference facility runs through September.

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