City working with feds to prep JFK Airport for arrival of Afghan refugees

Afghan refugees arrive at Dulles Airport in Virginia
Afghan refugees, like these arriving at Dulles International Airport in Virginia, could soon be landing at JFK International Airport as well. (Photo by REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein)

Nearly five years after it was ground zero for the Trump administration’s “Muslim travel ban,” JFK International Airport is preparing to welcome Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban.

Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed the city is working with federal authorities to prepare for a facility at the airport to process new arrivals, and workers for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have been reportedly unloading equipment at Building 87 at the north end of the airport for what a Port Authority spokesman called “contingency planning” at the cargo facility.

“Our Emergency Management Office was asked to work with federal and state officials on a contingency plan and to prepare a building just in case,” de Blasio said at his Tuesday, Aug. 31, briefing. “What we’re hearing right now — and of course, all of the decision-making will be made by the federal government — is that they have not yet made a decision on whether they need that building or whether there’s going to be activity at JFK. But they asked us to get ready just in case. And of course, we’re cooperating with the federal effort.”

DHS would not provide operational details.

Currently, all flights associated with this operation are arriving at Philadelphia International Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Aug. 30 that more than 123,000 people have been safely flown out of Afghanistan before the U.S. Military ended its evacuation operation at the Kabul Airport.

“We’ll make sure we’re finding every opportunity to make good on our commitment to the Afghan people, including by welcoming thousands of them into our communities, as American people have done many times before with generosity and grace throughout our history,” Blinken said.

That sentiment was echoed by de Blasio.

“We are a city of immigrants and we’re a city of refugees. Of course we will provide a welcome to those who need our support, and we assume that will be true all over our country,” de Blasio said. “And you know, the entire country will work together with the coordination of the federal government to ensure that you know, many different places participate for the good of all. I don’t know enough about the cap situation. I do know that folks who have been through this horrible experience in Afghanistan and particularly those who worked with the United States, deserve to be protected. And New York City will certainly play a role and do our fair share.”