Santa Clara County Prepares For Influx Of Refugees Following US Withdrawal From Afghanistan | New
Santa Clara County expects dramatic increase in refugee numbers following U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, as nonprofits estimate more than 500 people will need to be resettled in the next 12 months .
The influx of refugees means that hundreds of newcomer families will need immediate access to everything from accommodation and food to teaching English and skills training. Yet funding for these services is limited and has been reduced in recent years. The Santa Clara County Supervisory Board voted unanimously on Tuesday to bolster that funding, providing an additional $ 880,000 to help with the resettlement of refugees.
More … than 50,000 Afghan refugees are expected to enter the United States after the military withdrawal from Afghanistan on Aug. 30, according to officials from the Department of Homeland Security. Santa Clara County is one of eight counties in California to be required to accept refugees, and two local agencies – the Jewish Family Services of Silicon Valley and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) – stand alone. responsible for resettlement.
Supervisor Otto Lee said there was desperation among those fleeing Afghanistan and those lucky enough to make it to the United States should be supported. He highlighted the violence and chaos that erupted in the country after the end of the 20-year US military presence.
“I am personally appalled at the lack of proper planning for this withdrawal,” Lee said. “Those who think we are now ‘done’ with Afghanistan are woefully misinformed. The work is far from over. For our county right here in Santa Clara County, our work is just beginning.”
Lee and supervisor Susan Ellenberg have led efforts to increase funding for refugee resettlement, arguing that the county needs a quick and well-funded response to those arriving in the county from Afghanistan. About 25 people landed in Santa Clara County in August, with 17 more expected in the coming weeks.
“This is a rescue operation on a massive scale, and they need additional funds to continue this essential work in dealing with a crisis for which the United States bears some responsibility,” Lee wrote. and Ellenberg in their recommendation.
Refugees are currently arriving at Mineta San Jose International Airport on just two or three days’ notice, said Mindy Berkowitz, executive director of Jewish Family Services, and it will be difficult to keep track of them. His organization, along with the IRC, expect to grow from resettling 55 refugees last year to more than 500 in the next 12 months. Every arrival should be linked to accommodation, food, doctors, schools and government assistance, she said, as well as career counseling and vocational training to ensure they will become self-sufficient.
Berkowitz said the county has cut funding for Jewish family services over the past seven years and that it would currently be impossible to meet all of those needs. Housing allowances alone vary from $ 1,000 to $ 2,500 per household and can quickly eat into the organization’s current budget. On top of that, she said many of those arriving are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and will need mental health counseling.
“The need for these services will increase as more and more Afghans arrive in Silicon Valley,” she said.
Lee, an immigrant who served in Iraq, said the thousands of families who were at risk and fled Afghanistan last month are among those who have supported Americans abroad during the war, including by helping in life-saving combat situations. He said the county owed them by supporting the refugees in the same way it would support returning military personnel.
Several faith groups have supported the fundraising plan, which includes $ 130,000 in increased service contracts and $ 750,000 in one-time money. Diane Fisher, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, said Jewish Family Services and IRC both carry a “huge burden,” while Rabbi Faith Joy Dantowitz said the United States – a country of ‘immigrants – should support refugees.
“It is a moral obligation for all of us to welcome those who need a place and who need support,” she said.
Supervisor Joe Simitian said he had already worked with IRC 20 years ago to support refugees arriving from Albania and Kosovo, and it was clear to him that the county needed to increase its own funding, regardless of state and federal resources. available to pick up the tab.
“Having seen firsthand overseas and here in our county the refugee relief and resettlement work, I think the need for these services couldn’t be clearer,” Simitian said. “Each of us has a responsibility to do what we can.”
Read more: Aid to Afghanistan: How to Help and Where to Donate… in the Bay and Beyond