Delaware group prepares to help more Afghan refugees

Jewish Family Services of Delaware, which manages refugee arrivals, is doing advance work to help people fleeing Afghanistan who could come to the state.

Civilians prepare to board a plane at Hamid Karzai International Airport

Civilians prepare to board a plane during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 18. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla)

Sadiq was an interpreter for the U.S. military in Afghanistan. That job made him a target and the subject of death threats from the Taliban. So, in 2017, he received a Special Immigrant Visa that allowed him to escape to safety in America, where he was resettled in Delaware.

“I was threatened because of my job. The Taliban, they wanted to kill me. We had to hide, you know, like in the house,” he said. “The reason really I didn’t stay there is my kids. We were scared of, you know, something might happen.”

Sadiq tells his story in an online video posted by Jewish Family Services of Delaware, which coordinates refugee arrivals in the state. The group is now meeting with state and federal officials to plan for the possibility that Delaware will be asked to accept more people who, like Sadiq, are trying to escape the Taliban.

“We, as a state, are meeting about this regularly. A group of us met yesterday from every office,” said Rosi Crosby, chief strategy officer for JFS Delaware. That “group” includes Gov. John Carney’s office as well as representatives from Delaware’s congressional delegation, U.S. Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons and U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester.

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According to the White House, nearly 7,000 people have been evacuated out of Afghanistan since Aug. 14. Since the end of July, 12,000 people have been evacuated, including American citizens, U.S. Embassy personnel, and Special Immigrant Visa applicants, among others.

The visa program has faced criticism this week because of the slow speed with which approvals have been given to applications by Afghans who helped the U.S. during the past 20 years and now seek a way out of the country.

While those political issues are being debated, the group in Delaware is focused on making sure the state is prepared should it be called on to take in any Afghan refugees.

“What we here in Delaware are trying to do is assess what our capacity is, how many people we can take, when we can take them,” Crosby said.

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Sadiq gestures while sitting on a couch
Sadiq, an Afghan refugee, arrived in Delaware in 2017 after his life was threatened by the Taliban for helping the U.S. military as a translator. He received help from Jewish Family Services of Delaware to get settled in his new home in America. (JFS Delaware/YouTube)

“We’re all working together to just be ready. What does ready mean? Ready means having housing right, having support systems in place, having the case management available, having every wraparound service that you can imagine available for the individuals that arrive so that when they arrive here, if they arrive in Delaware, they’re welcomed and taken care of,” she said.

That’s the same type of welcome Sadiq and his family got when they came to Delaware to escape the Taliban, he says in the online video: “They came to us to welcome us, to take us to our home, actually, and they are introducing everything to you.”

JFS helped him understand how to open a bank account, how to use a debit card and credit card, and how to get a bus ticket, Sadiq says in the video.

“They were considering me as a friend, as family. I mean, without them how we could do it, you know, like it’s impossible,” he says. “Now, I’m in a place and I have a job. I know so much. I learned a lot. Yeah. I’m quite an American now.”

Though the decision on which refugees come to Delaware is well beyond Crosby’s purview, preparing for the possibility means lining up housing, jobs, and other support. The most challenging aspect of that is finding places for refugees to live, especially because the state’s housing market is so hot right now.

“There’s a dearth of housing in Delaware. So that was our biggest discussion,” Crosby said. “If you welcome 50 people, that might be 50 families, it might be five families. We don’t know how big the families are. We don’t know the details of the people that are coming until they come. We just have to make sure that they have a safe place to live.”

Lining up jobs for potential refugees has been much easier.

“The job market’s good right now. We know of employers who are already reaching out, saying, ‘When your refugees arrive, please have them apply. Our managers will meet them at the door and make sure they’re taken care of.’ That’s a beautiful thing,” Crosby said.

Earlier this week, JFS worked to help a refugee family from Rwanda get settled in New Castle County. As part of that effort, the group asked supporters for help collecting supplies for the family of three, including kitchen items, furniture, bedding, and toiletries. JFS is also collecting monetary donations to continue this work.

It hopes to help others seeking refuge in the coming months.

“We’re really working hard to iron out those details,” Crosby said, “so we can have 100 Sadiqs here, because he’s a great example of being able to be successful.”

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