East County mom, 4 kids evacuated from Afghanistan

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EL CAJON, Calif. (CNS) – A seventh family and children from an El Cajon school district have left Afghanistan and are returning to California, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Bonsall, announced Tuesday.

“For months, my staff and I have joined an unprecedented community-wide effort to bring this family and these kids home,” Issa said in a statement. “Today, we can say that they are for certain on their way back to us.

“There are so many people to thank for making this possible,” he said.

The father of the family — who Issa’s office said must remain anonymous due to the danger to other relatives still in Afghanistan — was home in San Diego County when Kabul fell to the Taliban. The mother and their four children were forced into hiding and moved from several safehouses as they eluded the Taliban for several months.

“I’m so very thankful to Congressman Issa and his staff who did so much to help bring my family home,” the family’s father said in a statement released by Issa’s office. “We cannot wait to all be together again.”

On Aug. 31, the U.S. military officially withdrew from Afghanistan, ending a 20-year conflict that started shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Issa was first contacted by David Miyashiro, the superintendent of the Cajon Valley Union School District, in August, and was told several families that included schoolchildren were unable to escape Afghanistan.

“From the day David first called me, our lives were changed, and we embarked on a daily mission to rescue these families,” Issa said. “David and the team he brought together has led from the start and tirelessly worked to bring everyone home.”

Issa’s office has helped evacuate more than 40 members of his congressional district from Afghanistan since the Taliban regained power.

“We are very appreciative of Congressman Issa and his staff for their support throughout this process,” said Miyashiro.

In October, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a plan for Afghan refugee housing and resettlement.

Supporting a proposal by Supervisor Joel Anderson, the board also directed the county to work with Congress to utilize frozen Taliban assets to pay for Afghan refugee resettlement activities. The U.S. Treasury Department froze the majority of $9.5 billion in Afghanistan government assets.

According to Anderson’s office, an estimated 58,000 Afghans are expected to arrive in the U.S., many of whom were forced to leave their homes without their possessions.

While the exact number of Afghans resettling in California is unknown, it is likely that they will settle in communities where they have friends and families, according to Anderson’s office.

While the county doesn’t have a direct role in determining how many Afghan refugees will resettle in the county, Anderson said it is critical to be ready — through its Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs — to handle the incoming refugees.

Board chairman Nathan Fletcher, a Marine who was deployed to Iraq in 2004, said it was important for the U.S. government to keep its word to the Afghans who helped U.S. forces for 20 years.

He added that before they step on U.S. soil, Afghans are vetted by numerous U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and later screened again by U.S. Customs officials.

Issa said his office continued to work.

“Even as we know these missing schoolchildren are coming home, we are reminded that there are so many more — perhaps several hundred more — from California that are still trapped in Afghanistan,” said Issa. “Our work is not yet close to complete.”

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