Dear Community Members,
I am honored to have joined the IRC as the new Executive Director for Northern California. The scale of our efforts in the region last year -- resettling roughly Afghan humanitarian parolees since August 2021, alongside another 448 refugees and SIVs since October 2021.
As we enter into the second year of the fall of the Afghan government, we continue to extend our hands in Northern California to assist those emerging from the rubble of war in Afghanistan.
Afghan refugees arriving in Northern California have survived years, if not decades, of war, hunger, and internal and external displacement in their home country. Over the last year alone, 76,000 Afghans were evacuated and are now being resettled by the IRC and other non-profit organizations like the IRC.
For four years, the Trump administration worked to dismantle the infrastructure and capacity of the United States for refugee resettlement, setting a resettlement goal in 2020 of just 15,000 people. This past year, IRC and other NGOs had the incredible task of not only scaling up to meet an increased resettlement goal of 125,000, but also resettling over 75,000 Afghan allies.
Scaling up to meet these unprecedented needs has been a monumental task for resettlement agencies. In Northern California alone, the IRC has resettled over 3,000 new arrivals since August 2021 - more than twice as many as the previous year.
Our staff, many of whom immigrated as refugees themselves, personally understand the experiences faced by refugees as they restart their lives. Local teams help with essential services including housing, employment, adult and youth education, cultural orientation, immigration legal services and connection to health providers. Given the current national shortage in affordable housing, the IRC now covers hotel costs for newly-arriving individuals and families until initial housing is identified. We work to address other concerns on arrival, including by providing food, essential supplies, emergency cash, a health and safety orientation, and support applying for benefits, employment, schools and more.
This kind of mobilization is not flawless, and not without its challenges. Our staff and exceptional community partners are rising to meet the moment. Under rapid timelines and constrained resources, we’re finding suitable housing and welcoming new families each day. In most communities, virtually all refugees have been transferred to permanent housing and significant benefits have been disbursed. We have come this far thanks to the grace and generosity of Northern California.
As I settle into my new role, I call upon you to please help the IRC in our historic resettlement endeavor. First, we ask for understanding — of the challenges and hardships facing Afghans settling into a new home, and of the scale and complexity of this operation.
Second, we continue to look to government agencies and community partners for cooperation, resources and support. Northern California has been a welcoming community for refugees for decades and continues to be so today.
Finally, we encourage anyone interested in supporting Afghan parolees to volunteer or donate, at the individual or organization level. Those interested in supporting our work can contact our offices to learn more, particularly in Stanislaus County. We also encourage interested community members to donate to the Soft Landing Fund, which helps support newly-arrived Afghans in Northern California.
The IRC in Northern California and resettlement agencies around the country have been asked to resettle thousands of people at a speed, number and complexity like never before. We are proud to serve these new arrivals, and confident that as the operation unfolds, our new Afghan neighbors will settle in safely, securely, and with hope for their future.