Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Loudoun Supervisor Michael R. Turner (D-Ashburn) today toured the National Conference Center in Lansdowne where 300 Afghan evacuees arrived this week.
The families are expected to stay at the NCC for 30 days while they await resettlement into their permanent homes in the U.S. Warner said he was told about 70% of the asylum seekers have family or friends already in the country.
The tour was closed to the press, but Warner described the environment in the center as “home-like.”
“You see relief and joy that these families are on their way to a new life in America,” he said.
When news broke that the site would be used for Operation Afghan Welcome, the Sheriff’s Office raised concerns over vetting evacuees and ensuring the safety of the neighboring community.
“I think the screening process is appropriate. I think the security is top-notch. I think once again what we are demonstrating here in Loudoun County and in Virginia is this continuing tradition of hospitality. Many of these families put their lives on the line to protect our American servicemembers during the conflict of Afghanistan,” Warner said. He added that the group of evacuees had been vetted by U.S. officials while in both Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Turner said he was attending the event on behalf of County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large).
Turner said that he worked on similar operations while he was in the military, particularly during Desert Storm.
“I’m not logistically unfamiliar with the challenges that they face here. I can tell you this is a world-class operation,” Turner said, adding that it was a very well-known group of asylum seekers.
Warner praised the work of the ADAMS Center, which worked to ensure that evacuees would have familiar foods and comforts of home. ADAMS Board of Trustees Chairman Rizwan Jaka gave a sense of the environment inside the center.
“They have great cultural food. Their chef and their dining team made great Afghan food, kabobs. They have a great dining hall. … They have computer labs, immigration conference rooms to get help with immigration, they have supply stores where people can get for people that need clothing or diapers or formula. … There are so many kids and they’re all just so happy,” Jaka said.