San Diego County offers refugee support through Afghan-led advocacy groups

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SAN DIEGO — As San Diego families step up to support Afghan refugees, the county is now joining in on the effort.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors Friday announced ongoing support for Afghan-led advocacy groups as they expect an influx of evacuees.

Leaders said more than 250 refugees have come to San Diego since the beginning of this month. Mejgan Afshan, co-founder and executive director of Borderlands for Equity, said the move by the county is critical for expanding resources.

“We want to make sure that no one falls through the cracks and slips through the system,” Afshan said. “We want to provide these services as much as possible to the best of our ability.”

Their priorities are to secure temporary and permanent housing, expedite foster care licenses, so they can reunite with other family members who enter the U.S. alone and prepare refugees for the workforce.

“San Diego County has always served as a beacon of hope for people looking for a better life, and now it is time to welcome Afghans seeking freedom, just as our region did for the Vietnamese and Iraqi refugees who came before them,” Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer said in a statement. “Helping people fleeing persecution is one reason why I’m working so hard to create a regional support network to assist refugees as they navigate our legal system. As a student, I led national protests against what became a 20-year war in Afghanistan, and now as a County Supervisor, I am pledging my support to help close this chapter in American history by doing right by our Afghan allies.”

David and Leslie Lee recently moved to Rancho Sante Fe and welcomed new roommates — an Afghan Refugee family of six.

“Now that the family is here, we are actually gaining so much more than we are giving back,” said refugee host Leslie Lee.

They are some of the many people helping refugees find peace as they get back on their feet.

“The people here, they have been very kind, generous and they welcomed us,” the Afghan refugee father said.

FOX 5 chose to exclude his name because his family is concerned about the safety of their two sons stuck in Afghanistan who missed the age cut off to come to the United States by a year. The father hasn’t heard from them in weeks and now is calling on leaders for help.

“I would like to draw the attention of the U.S. government to make sure the help will continue, so those people can be reunited,” he said.

As the son of immigrants, David Lee felt giving this refugee family a safe place to stay is his way of giving back. 

“It’s almost like [the Afghan refugee father] is kind of a veteran of the U.S. in a way,” David said. “He basically served for us in the military for a while and how we want to treat those people?”

The Lee’s are encouraging anyone looking to host Afghan refugees to just try it. They expressed their initial fear of letting strangers into their home who didn’t speak the same language, but they said the experience is truly amazing, especially watching them experience new things like the ocean and smoothies.

They added the community has been so supportive of them too.

Some of the advocacy groups the county is partnering with are Borderlands for Equity, License to Freedom and the Afghan Cultural Center. 

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