Ways Every-Day Americans Can Help Afghan Refugees Arriving in California
California is expected to receive more than 5,200 Afghan evacuees in 2021, as the United States works to end military operations in that country. Many Americans who have seen media coverage of Afghan families and children being forced out of their homes are looking for ways to help here in central California. Today, immigration attorney Patricia Adura-Miranda of Miranda, Magden & Miranda, LLP, would like to share a few important ways you can help Afghan refugees successfully transition to a new life in America.
Why Afghan Evacuees Need Additional Support
When the U.S. removed troops from Afghanistan in August of 2021, thousands of Afghan civilians who worked alongside our military forces as guides and interpreters were forced to flee very quickly. Most of these refugees were taken to military bases abroad before being brought to bases in the U.S. for medical screenings, coronavirus testing, and processing of paperwork before being released. Others that were friendly with the former government or with ideals not shared by the Taliban were and are also at risk and may be seeking humanitarian parole to the U.S. or another safe country. Social service agencies estimate there are currently over 53,000 Afghan evacuees waiting to be released at U.S. bases, with more expected soon.
Normally, service agencies spend months or even years arranging housing and other forms of support for refugees before they arrive. However, due to the imminent danger Afghans faced and the large number of people needing assistance, refugee support services are having to do work that would normally take months in only days or weeks.
How You Can Help Afghan Refugees
Many immigration attorneys and other legal advocates are using their knowledge to offer help to refugees through pro bono legal guidance or assistance applying for benefits. But this is just one type of help that is needed, and it will take the efforts of many compassionate Americans to address this humanitarian crisis. Here are a few steps you can take to assist those in peril in Afghanistan seeking safety and once they arrive:
Become a Sponsor
USCIS is currently expediting humanitarian parole applications from Afghans to help them enter the country more quickly, but the applicant must have a U.S. “sponsor” to apply. You can volunteer to sponsor a refugee through Pangea Legal Services, Centro Legal de la Raza, and the Afghan Diaspora for Equality & Progress. You can also make a donation to cover the cost of filing the application.
You can assist newly arriving Afghans with anything from apartment setup to English lessons through the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay, or the International Rescue Committee (IRC), which has several offices across the state, including in San Jose and Turlock.
There are many reputable organizations accepting monetary donations for refugees from Afghanistan and other places. We encourage you to research any organization before making a donation to help understand how your funds will be used. You can also donate items like clothes and hygiene products to groups such as the Welcome to America Project or donate items directly to refugees through the IRC Los Angeles’ Target wish list. Airbnb hosts can also donate free temporary housing through the Airbnb.org program.
Reach out to your elected officials, including your Members of Congress, to voice your concerns about the treatment of Afghan refugees in California. Use your voice to advocate for the men and women who risked their lives working alongside our troops. If you need a little help communicating effectively with your elected officials, organizations like Church World Service offer sample email templates, and Afghans for a Better Tomorrow offers a phone script for leaving voicemails.
These organizations offer a variety of services and programs that you can participate in to help support refugees.
Evacuate Our Allies (EOA) – Add your signature to a letter to the President, donate, or find ways to volunteer.
Afghan Legal Support & Resettlement Fund – A fundraiser by Pars Equality Center to help cover the cost of applications and legal support for Afghans applying for entry to the U.S.
Miles4Migrants – Use donated frequent flyer miles, credit card points, and cash to help people impacted by war, persecution, or disaster reunite with loved ones and start new beginnings in safe homes.
Women for Women International – Organization working inside Afghanistan to support women impacted by war.
Protect Afghan Women – This is a project run by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security, where you can donate or find resources for being an advocate.
Afghan Coalition – Services and resources for those in the Afghan community.
No One Left Behind – Group dedicated to ensuring all Afghan and Iraqi interpreters who assisted the U.S. can safely evacuate.
Human Rights First – Human rights organization providing legal assistance and other support to Afghan evacuees.
Working Toward Brighter Futures
These are just a few of the many opportunities that exist to help refugees in your community, and we encourage you to look for other ways you can support local at-risk individuals.
At Miranda, Magden & Miranda, LLP, we also look for multiple ways to assist those in need. Beyond immigration, we handle a variety of legal matters, including Chapter 7 bankruptcy, divorce, and custody disputes, all with the goal of helping families like yours move toward a better future. Contact us today to learn how we can assist you.