Americans' Doors Open to Refugees

Groups ask for more volunteers to prepare for arrivals from Afghanistan
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 21, 2021 5:30 PM CDT
Homes in US Open to Refugees
Volunteers receive, sort, and pack thousands of items donated to Afghan refugees resettling in the Washington, DC, region at a restaurant on Thursday.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

As refugees from Afghanistan begin arriving in the US, Americans are offering to take them in. Jacqueline Buzas of Refugee Services of Texas said the organization has never seen a response like this, the Washington Post reports. "We have people calling to say, 'I have an extra bedroom.' Or, 'I'm retired and have this extra house," Buzas said. "People understand the human aspects of this, having to flee this life-or-death situation. And they just open the door." Her organization is among more than a dozen in Texas that resettle refugees. Buzas said it's making plans for the arrival in the next few weeks of more than 300 Afghans from Fort Lee in Virginia.

Gov. Ralph Northam tweeted that he'd met some of the thousands of refugees at Fort Lee, per Yahoo News. Northam said he's told the federal government that "we're ready and willing to take thousands more." Gov. Doug Ducey released a statement saying Arizona will help refugees who helped the US in Afghanistan. Organizations in Utah preparing for an influx asked for volunteers, per KSL, noting that the situation is moving more quickly than they expected but adding, "We are always ready to resettle refugees in any moment." Agencies elsewhere said they've had as little as 24 hours' notice that refugees were arriving. They're required to have furnished apartments ready when the families arrive.

The application process for Special Immigrant Visas already was cumbersome and slow, said an official at the International Refugee Assistance Project. "Then Kabul fell and things got worse." She said clients have been killed in Afghanistan while waiting for visas. Phuong Tran Nguyen, a California State University history professor, likens the current situation to the US withdrawal from Vietnam, per Vox. "There was a sense that we had a moral obligation to help people out after failing them during the Cold War," said Phuong Tran Nguyen. "I think this is what we’re seeing right now, this same parallel." The US accepted more than 100,000 Vietnamese refugees. Karen Musalo writes in the Los Angeles Times that the US "could easily justify taking in 150,000" refugees now. (Read more refugees stories.)

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