Supervisors support plan for Afghan refugee resettlement

Local

FILE – In this Aug. 24, 2021, file photo provided by the U.S. Marine Corps, families walk towards their flight during ongoing evacuations at Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan. More than 30 California children are stuck in Afghanistan after traveling to the country to see their relatives weeks before the Taliban seized power and US forces left, according to school districts where the kids are enrolled. (Sgt. Samuel Ruiz/U.S. Marine Corps via AP, File)

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The county Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a comprehensive plan for Afghan refugee housing and resettlement Tuesday.

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.

“I am thankful that my colleagues recognize the importance of this measure that will ensure San Diego County is ready to welcome these refugees into our communities,” Anderson said in a statement.

“East County, (which) I represent, has a large population of Afghans and others with Middle Eastern heritage,” Anderson said. “The actions taken today will help guarantee clear communication and coordination among government and nonprofits to provide the resources needed to protect these vulnerable individuals.”

According to Anderson’s office, an estimated 58,000 Afghans are expected to arrive in the United States, and many of them 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 the 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.

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.

The country now is under the control of the Taliban, and the U.S. Treasury Department froze the majority of $9.5 billion in Afghanistan government assets, according to Anderson’s office.

Anderson’s board letter directs Helen Robbins-Meyer, chief administrative officer, to advocate for the use of those frozen assets “to fund any and all costs to the state and county resulting from the resettlement of Afghan refugees.”

During a public hearing before the board’s vote, some residents, citing safety concerns, opposed taking action to help 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.

“They love this country, they care about this country,” Fletcher said. “If we’re a country that can’t keep our word to people who sacrificed for us, then shame on us.”

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