When Joe Biden ordered troops to leave Afghanistan, thousands of Afghans were lucky to be evacuated to the United States while others remain there under Taliban rule. But some of those refugees dumped into California are struggling to find housing in a state already in a housing crisis, and help getting settled in a new country is lacking.
More than 2,900 refugees have landed in the California cities of Sacramento, Oakland, San Jose, and Turlock, where the International Rescue Committee (IRC) — the main organization helping the refugees — has offices.
Not to mention that these refugees are also competing with Americans for jobs and social services.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported on one family that spent months in a hotel in California’s Central Valley:
Leaving behind a construction business and their lives in Kabul, a pregnant Firoza; her husband, Ahmad; and their daughter were among the roughly 76,000 Afghan nationals evacuated from their country last August, as the Taliban reclaimed power during the final days of the U.S. government’s 20-year occupation. The Chronicle is withholding the couple’s last name due to security concerns for relatives still in Afghanistan. A former interpreter for the U.S. military, Ahmad believed coming to America meant his family could start over in safety.
That belief held through four months at a military base in New Jersey, and followed them onto a plane to Los Angeles in late December. It stuck by the family when they were picked up from the airport by a caseworker from the International Rescue Committee, a nongovernmental organization that receives federal funding to provide refugees with temporary housing, job assistance, and help with obtaining government documents, medical care and even school enrollment.
But 148 remain in temporary living quarters, and 93 — 63% — are in Turlock, where frustrated refugees level complaints of neglect against an overtaxed IRC office that says it’s doing the best it can under difficult circumstances.
In Turlock, frustrated Afghan refugees are leveling complaints of neglect against an overtaxed International Rescue Committee office that says it’s doing the best it can under difficult circumstances.https://t.co/Y7ZE8vNTZV
— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) May 31, 2022
“The resettlement of Afghans is one of the most complex, massive and unprecedented logistical and humanitarian challenges in American history,” IRC spokesperson Stanford Prescott said in a statement given to the Chronicle. “The IRC is growing in Turlock to meet the moment, as are all resettlement offices across the country.”
And American taxpayers are footing the bill, including the IRC getting $2,275 in federal funding for each Afghan refugee it serves.
The Chronicle noted that refugees seeking housing have to follow the same procedures as other potential renters, including providing proof of income, having a good credit score, and having someone to cosign the lease.
The imam of the only mosque in Turlock slammed the treatment he said refugees are exposed to.
“Don’t just bring the refugees and dump them and say you should survive on (your) own,” Ahmad Kayello, imam of the Islamic Center of Modesto, said in the article. “This is unethical.”
Ahmad and his family ended up moving to San Jose where his mother and brother live. They used taxpayer money to get a two-bedroom apartment, with his brother as cosigner on the lease.
But the article did not say whether Ahmad has found a job or the fate of the other Afghans still in temporary housing in California.
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