Operation Allies Welcome: "Safe Haven" Facility in Loudoun
The federal government entered a contractual agreement with The National Conference Center (NCC) in Lansdowne to use the center as a “safe haven” to temporarily house Afghan evacuees beginning in March 2022 as part of Operation Allies Welcome. The site will function as a brief stop for Afghan evacuees while they are resettled into new homes located throughout the United States.
Facebook Live Question-and-Answer March 10, 2022
Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis J. Randall and Ashburn District Supervisor Michael R. Turner hosted a question-and-answer session about the facility March 10 on Facebook. A video of the conversation is posted on the county’s Facebook page here.
Senior Official's Statement
3/9/2022: Operation Allies Welcome reported that the first group of guests (approximately 300 people) arrived at the National Conference Center on the afternoon and evening of March 8, 2022, without incident. They will now begin the resettlement process and likely move on to their new homes by the end of the month. The next group of Afghan guests is scheduled to arrive during the week of March 14.
Operation Allies Welcome Senior Response Official Robert J. Fenton Jr. issues the following statement: “Yesterday, the first group of Afghan evacuees arrived at the National Conference Center (NCC) as a part of Operation Allies Welcome. While they await to be connected to resettlement agencies and partners who will help them move to their new communities, Afghan evacuees at the NCC will receive support services, be able to apply for their Employment Authorization Documents through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and participate in workshops on U.S. laws and civic education. All Afghan evacuees undergo a multi-layered, rigorous screening and vetting process prior to arriving in the United States, they are required to receive age-appropriate vaccinations and undergo medical screening, including getting tested for COVID-19. We will continue to work closely with state and local partners to ensure we can continue to resettle our Afghan allies as quickly, safely, and successfully as possible.”
Loudoun County is working with federal and local partners to provide facts to the community regarding this operation. Submit questions or comments through the form and the county will coordinate responses with the appropriate entity.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are frequently asked questions about the federal government's plans for the NCC
What is happening at The National Conference Center in Lansdowne?
On February 24, 2022, federal government officials informed Loudoun County that the federal government has signed a contract with The National Conference Center (NCC) to use the facility as a temporary residential facility for Afghan evacuees who are U.S. allies. These people left Afghanistan because they remained vulnerable if they stayed in their country due to a number of reasons, such as their work or their family members’ work for and/or cooperation with the U.S. and its allies. For the period of the contract , the NCC will close to all use by the public and temporarily become a federally managed facility. The use of this facility—called a “safe haven” by federal officials—is part of the federal government’s Operation Allies Welcome, the first phase of which included the rapid evacuation of Afghans beginning in August 2021. The current resettlement effort, including the activities in Loudoun County, is referred to as "phase 2" of the operation. More information about Operation Allies Welcome is posted on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) website: dhs.gov/allieswelcome
Why does the federal government need to use a facility in Loudoun County?
Federal, state and non-profit/non-governmental entities are working collaboratively to resettle former Afghanistan residents in the U.S. To accomplish this goal, the federal government requires suitable facilities in which to temporarily house people as they arrive in the U.S. until they are resettled in permanent homes. After careful evaluation of potential sites along the east coast of the U.S. earlier this year, federal officials determined in February that the NCC is a suitable facility for securely providing temporary housing as well as for staging the resettlement operation. The facility will serve as a "safe haven" for the Afghan evacuees until their new, permanent homes are identified in locations throughout the United States. The resettlement process is expected to occur as quickly as possible, with evacuees temporarily housed in Loudoun County for approximately two to four weeks after arriving at the NCC from Dulles International Airport.
Is it safe to bring the former Afghanistan residents into Loudoun County?
Yes. Operation Allies Welcome officials take seriously the security of the homeland, which includes the security of the temporary residents they are assisting as well as the security of the surrounding communities in which these operations are located. Careful planning and considerable security measures are being implemented to safeguard the NCC as well as the Lansdowne neighborhood and greater Loudoun community (see more about the security and health vetting of evacuees below). The planning includes direct coordination with the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and Loudoun County Combined Fire and Rescue System to ensure appropriate public safety responses to the facility will continue, as well as to ensure other public safety measures within the facility are strictly followed while the NCC is a secure, federally managed facility. All movements in and out of the NCC will be carefully managed by federal authorities. Everything the temporary Afghan guests will need during their brief stay at the NCC will be provided to them within the facility.
Who are the people who are currently being resettled in the United States?
The people who are currently being resettled by the U.S. government in this second phase of Operation Allies Welcome are individuals, families and family members who remain vulnerable in Afghanistan for a number of reasons. Some are family members of previously evacuated people who left Afghanistan over the past few months. Others are individuals and families who were able to leave the country by other means. They include Afghans who are eligible for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) because they took significant risks to support U.S. military and civilian personnel in Afghanistan, worked for or on behalf of the U.S. government in Afghanistan or coalition forces, or are a family member of someone who did. These evacuees also include judges and prosecutors, women who were teachers, embassy personnel, interpreters and guides for the U.S. military, women's rights activists, journalists, family members of American citizens, and lawful permanent residents. Other evacuees also include women leaders, human rights activists, humanitarian workers, or others who had careers that put them at risk if they had stayed in Afghanistan. Prior to being allowed into the United States, all of these Afghans spent time in other countries, such as Qatar, while the U.S. government vetted them. Federal authorities are working to reunite Afghan families who were separated and to resettle other families throughout the U.S. who now require additional services from federal, state, local and non-profit/non-governmental entities to help them assimilate into the U.S. and well as to be placed in permanent homes.
How were the former Afghanistan residents screened and vetted prior to arriving in the United States?
Afghan evacuees undergo a multi-layered, rigorous screening and vetting process that begins overseas and is conducted by intelligence, law enforcement, and counterterrorism professionals from the Departments of Defense (DOD), Homeland Security, and State; Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC); and additional intelligence community partners. Upon evacuation from Afghanistan and before being cleared to travel to the United States, Afghan evacuees are brought to international transit points where the U.S. government collects and reviews biometric (such as, facial images and fingerprints) and biographic (such as, name, date of birth, and ID number) information. Biometric data is compared against DOD, DHS, and FBI repositories. Biographic information is vetted by NCTC, FBI, and other intelligence community partners. Only those evacuees who clear these comprehensive checks by U.S. counterterrorism, intelligence, and law enforcement professionals are approved for onward travel to the United States. As with other arrivals at U.S. ports of entry, Afghan nationals undergo a primary inspection when they arrive at a U.S. airport. Individuals who are identified by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as requiring further review as a result of primary inspection are referred to secondary inspection, where additional reviews of information and interviews are conducted by CBP officers and other federal partners, as required. If any information of concern is found, federal entities leverage several tools to ensure the continued protection of national security, including the placement of individuals into expedited removal or removal proceedings.
What is the health status of the former Afghanistan residents who will be arriving in the United States?
Afghan evacuees have received medical exams and health screenings and are required to receive vaccinations for various illnesses, including measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), polio, varicella (chickenpox), and COVID-19, among others. Failure to comply with these conditions may result in denial of work authorization, the termination of their temporary status, and removal from the United States. The former Afghanistan residents who will arrive at the NCC have received medical evaluations and care before coming to Northern Virginia. These individuals are in good health. In addition to receiving necessary vaccinations, they been screened for other communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis. The health and well-being of the former Afghanistan residents at the NCC and the surrounding community is a top priority for federal authorities. Federal health officials will be on site at the NCC to respond to any medical needs the temporary NCC residents may have, as well as to ensure adequate public health measures are implemented to protect the community.
How long will the former Afghanistan residents stay in Loudoun County?
The temporary guests at the NCC are expected to be housed at the "safe haven" facility for approximately two to four weeks before leaving to be placed in their new, permanent homes in locations around the United States. Federal authorities intend to work as quickly as possible to resettle individuals and families into permanent homes. As individuals and families are placed and leave the NCC, new temporary guests will arrive. Approximately 1,000 guests could be processed through the NCC per month. The challenges associated with the rapid evacuation of Afghans last year have been resolved by the federal government. As a result, the current resettlement process is carefully regulated and orderly through "safe haven" facilities. The process allows time to determine where to resettle the new residents, which may include factors such as where other family members are already located in the U.S., where housing and community supports are available, and where the new residents are likely to find jobs in their areas of expertise. While housed at the NCC, individuals and family members will receive training as needed on a broad range of topics, such as western culture and laws. Various agencies, such as the Virginia Department of Social Services and various nonprofit entities, will work collaboratively to provide any services the temporary guests need while also working to resettle them in permanent homes. This federal operation in Loudoun County is expected to end no later than September 2022.
How will this operation impact the neighborhood?
There should be little impact on the surrounding community. The temporary Afghan residents will not walk through the neighborhood; access onto and off of the NCC campus will be strictly coordinated by federal authorities. There will be no impact to the nearby golf course or resort. Loudoun County residents will continue to have access to the sidewalks and trails located outside the perimeter of the NCC property. The federal operation supporting the resettlement of the former Afghanistan residents will be contained within the NCC facility.
Some of the likely impacts include the following:
- The public will have no access to the NCC buildings/facilities nor vehicular access to internal roadways on the NCC property.
- Residents may notice buses entering/exiting the NCC campus via public roads approximately two days per week, likely in the afternoons, as the temporary residents are transported from regional airports to the NCC.
The federal government is working closely with the local community to consider any impacts the operation could have to the neighborhood so that steps can be taken to mitigate them.
How would this operation impact Belmont Ridge Middle School and Riverside High School?
Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) has been in communication with the federal authorities regarding the resettlement facility at The National Conference Center and any potential impact to the nearby schools. The federal government’s efforts are not expected to impact school operations. The safety and security of the schools’ campus will be maintained by local officials as they are currently. Parents, students and LCPS staff will continue to access the schools normally. Children who are staying at the NCC will not be attending public schools during their brief stay in Loudoun County (although they may begin to receive lessons from federal officials within the NCC during their stay there). In the event a family is placed into a new home within Loudoun County, any school-aged children would go through the normal LCPS enrollment process. Other than the use of nearby public roads used for ingress and egress to the NCC, there should be no impact on the school communities.
What can I do to help the former residents of Afghanistan?
Unfortunately, the federal government cannot accept donations from Loudoun County residents at the NCC; therefore, no one should attempt to drop off donations of any kind at the NCC. Federal officials are currently coordinating offers to assist their efforts in Loudoun County. If you would like to help in any way, you may submit an online comment form to Loudoun County, which will be routed to the appropriate federal officials for follow-up.
Other ways to help now are listed below.
Federal agencies and private sector and nonprofit partners are collaborating with an organization called Welcome.US, a national nonprofit initiative that launched in September 2021, to channel support from the American public and the private sector to newly arrived Afghans and their families. People who are interested in assisting arriving Afghans can go to the Welcome.US website to learn about ways to get involved.
In addition, the U.S. Department of State is working with the Community Sponsorship Hub to support the launch of the Sponsor Circle Program for Afghans, a new program which enables groups of individuals and community organizations across the country to directly support Afghans who have been relocated to the United States under Operation Allies Welcome. The program will enable groups of individuals to apply to be vetted, trained, and certified to form sponsor circles to provide initial resettlement assistance to Afghans as they arrive and build new lives in local communities across the country. For more information on the Sponsor Circle Program and to learn how to apply to form a sponsor circle to support arriving Afghans, visit sponsorcircles.org.