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An IRC staff member sits and speaks with an Afghan man, woman, and child.
Refugees welcome

Americans across the country are welcoming Afghans

Photo: Andrew Oberstadt/IRC

The ongoing crisis in Afghanistan has forced many families to flee their homes and seek safety in the U.S. While efforts have been made to speed up visa approval and increase emergency support, more than 18 million people remain in need of humanitarian aid.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has been assisting Afghan refugees and Afghans who helped the US mission in their country, providing them with critical information, cash assistance, and health and education resources.

And we’re not alone. 

Americans across the country — from politicians and veterans to community members and corporations — continue to actively show their support for Afghan refugees.

Here’s how.

Elected officials

U.S. state and local elected officials from all fifty states came together to sign a letter urging President Biden to welcome at least 125,000 refugees in 2022. Even though the refugee admissions goal increased to 65,200 this year, millions are still in dire need of lifesaving aid. 

“Refugees bring immense value to our communities,” the letter reads. “They invigorate our economies, bring innovation to our towns, and make our public and cultural institutions richer. Refugees are students, business owners, dedicated employees, customers, elected officials, and community leaders. In every way, they embody what it means to be an American.”

Jared Polis, governor of Colorado and signee of the letter, recently helped set up an apartment for a refugee family resettling in his state. His note to them read, “Dear Friends, Welcome to Colorado. We are so excited to have you here. Colorado is a beautiful state and will be a wonderful home for your family.”

Colorado governor Jared Polis an an Afghan refugee woman speak in the kitchen of the woman's new apartment.

Colorado governor Jared Polis helps an Afghan refugee family settle into their new apartment.

Governor Polis is not alone; thirty-seven governors, including nineteen Republicans, issued statements in support of welcoming Afghans to their states. 

Mayors from across the nation also gathered virtually at the 89th annual US Conference of Mayors to share their support for resettling Afghans and welcoming them into their communities.

During the event, the Criminal and Social Justice Committee, chaired by Kansas City mayor Quinton Lucas, passed the resolution, “In Support of Afghan Interpreters and Allies of the U.S. Armed Forces.” Ali Noorani, president and CEO of the National Immigration Forum, also shared next steps for refugees as they begin to arrive and rebuild their lives in the US.

Community members

Two young boys in Colorado set up a lemonade stand to raise money for the IRC in Denver, which is helping Afghan refugees resettle there. Cousins Timber Tillemann-dick and Rahm Tillemann-trivedi, both 5 years old, raised $750 via Venmo with help from family and friends. They even used their grandmother’s special recipe for the lemonade.

"If everyone takes small steps to do something then maybe it will make a difference," said Liberty Tillemann-dick, Rahm's mother.

Meanwhile, IRC offices across the country have seen an outpouring of support from community members who’ve shared, donated, and purchased items from their local offices’ wishlists to help welcome their new Afghan neighbors. We’ve also seen a 47 percent increase in volunteer applications, for opportunities that range from helping to set up apartments to becoming a mentor for a new family. 

These generous community members are not alone in supporting Afghans. Recent polling by CBS News/YouGov shows that 81 percent of Americans say that the country should help its Afghan allies come to the U.S. 

Find out how you can welcome Afghans in your community.

Veterans

U.S. military veterans Kate and Adrian gave a “hero’s welcome” to Afghans arriving at the Sacramento airport in California. They were joined by their 3-year-old daughter Juniper, who greeted refugees with a homemade sign in Pashto and English.

A young girl holds a "Welcome" sign in Pashto and English.

Three-year-old Juniper greets Afghan refugees at the Sacramento airport with a homemade sign in Pashto and English.

Photo: Kate Hoit

Kate and Adrian saw first-hand how Afghans supported the U.S. military during the war and risked their lives in doing so. In fact, Adrian helped an Afghan interpreter he worked with resettle in the U.S. seven years ago. They remain close to this day.

“We saw the struggles they went through,” said Kate, who now volunteers with the IRC. “We knew when this unfolded that people needed all the support they could get. The best thing we can do is to give back to the people who sacrificed so much for us.”

Fellow refugees

Afghan refugee Muska Haseeb, 25, resettled with her mom, brother, and sister in Phoenix when she was 12 years old. In 2012, she started her own business selling authentic clothing from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Seeing the recent crisis in Afghanistan unfold has been painful for her.

"It makes my heart bleed,” she said. “Watching all the chaos going on social media, it is just so terrifying.”

Still, Muska understands the hope that many Afghans are clinging to and she has been speaking out and volunteering to help welcome them. In Afghanistan, she didn’t have big dreams. Now, she is building a career and starting pre-med classes at the University of Texas.

“When I came to the United States, I saw a completely different future here,” Muska said.

An Afghan refugee family stands outside their home in the US.

“When I came to the United States, I saw a completely different future here,” Muska said.

Washington state representative My-Linh Thai and her family also resettled in the US years ago. They fled Vietnam in 1983 when My-Linh was 15 years old. 

For My-Linh, reading and watching the news today brings back painful memories of the Vietnam War and starting a new life in a strange place. She’s adamant about welcoming Afghan refugees and making them feel at home. 

“You are not a stranger. You are family,” she said. “You are part of the community and we love you and we care for you, and you are part of us, and let us know how we can welcome you better than the experience I had.”

My-Linh also hopes other refugees who’ve already resettled in the U.S. can be proactive in supporting their new community members. She believes people must live — not just show — their American values through their actions and efforts.

“Show is not deep enough,” she said. “We have to live it.”

How you can help Afghans in the U.S. 

Many of the International Rescue Committee’s 20+ offices across the United States are helping newly-arrived Afghans, including those who worked with the U.S. in Afghanistan. These families often arrive with few belongings and need housing, food, home goods and other basics as they get on their feet.

Even if your local office is not currently welcoming Afghan families, you can connect to help refugees and other new Americans. Find out how you can help in your community or make a donation to support the IRC's work around the world.