CHICAGO — The Department of Homeland Security confirms a flight carrying unaccompanied Afghan children arrived in Chicago today from Qatar. The kids have been identified by aide organizations as traveling without a parent, legal guardian, or other trusted adult.
Refugee One has been a leading organization preparing for the arrival of Afghan refugees. Workers told WGN News they would help refugees find housing, resources, jobs and a new life in the city.
“This flight took place to ensure children are unified with vetted sponsors and family members as quickly as possible and was done in accordance with public health guidelines,” a DHS spokesperson said.
Homeland Security officials did not say how many children were on the flight. Still, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky’s office said it expects 860 refugees of all ages will be coming to Illinois, with approximately 550 settling in the Chicago area. Schakowsky’s office expects more arrivals on October 1.
“We’ve always been a city of open arms. We are a city of immigrants,” Schakowsky said. “We have a large number of resettlement resources that are going to be put to work. We welcome that opportunity. So this is a serious commitment right now.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot confirmed what WGN News learned from the Department of Homeland Security — that refugees from Afghanistan, all children and teens, arrived at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, weeks after the United States ended its longest war.
“We anticipated that we were going to get planeloads of folks before now, but we were notified and have been working hand in glove with federal partners,” Lightfoot said.
Some children were united with vetted sponsor families or relatives upon arrival at O’Hare. Others will remain in the care of the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement. Homeland Security said the children received MMR vaccinations before departing for the US and, if eligible, will be receiving COVID-19 vaccines after arriving.