September 29, 2021

Welcoming Afghans and the Long Journey Ahead

Afghans arriving in San Diego are finally safe. They’ve escaped the terror of the Taliban’s takeover and run the obstacle course that is U.S. immigration. But their journey is far from over.

Imagine leaving behind your extended family, your country, your culture, your language, your way of life—everything you’ve known your entire life. And you step into the fast-paced, expensive, technological world of San Diego. Although you’re safe here, sometimes people are hostile to your presence. Although your girls can go to school, they’re thrust into a classroom with 30 kids who speak a foreign language. Although you have some financial stability, you can’t afford much more than your rent. Your job prospects are slim and you’re not sure how you’re going to feed your family.

That’s the journey ahead for them, and for us.

More than 1,500 Afghans are expected in San Diego over the next three months, and perhaps double that over the next year. Over all, 5,200 are coming to California, the largest recipient of refugees at 30% of the total to be resettled in the U.S.

Many of these Afghans are coming under the category of “humanitarian parole,” a tool that allows certain individuals to enter and stay in the U.S. without a visa. Parole is granted for “urgent humanitarian reasons” and enables the government to respond quickly. For instance, humanitarian parole was employed during the evacuation of Vietnam in 1975.

While Afghan parolees are safely in the United States, most of them still at military bases, their status is not permanent, and they do not receive the same benefits as other refugees. They receive a one-time benefit of $1,225 per person and work authorization, but no other cash aid, no food aid, nor medical aid, with only a few exceptions.

While the federal government considers its options for giving Afghans more permanent status and some additional benefits to aid in their transition to the U.S., private groups such as Hope for San Diego are filling in the gaps to help welcome our new neighbors.

In the short term, Hope for San Diego is working alongside resettlement agencies, and partnering with other non-profit groups to provide initial set-up of apartments, groceries, and meals.

“God loves and cares for the vulnerable: the orphan, the widow and the foreigner. And He commands His people to, as well.” — Matt Soerens, World Relief

As you can imagine, Afghans’ need for community, empowerment, and support to reach self-sufficiency stretches far beyond the three months of services resettlement agencies provide. In order to address these needs, we are working with our affiliate, World Relief, to establish Good Neighbor Teams to walk with Afghan families over the course of the next year.

The journey for our new neighbors will be long, but we have the opportunity to demonstrate our faith in action by joining them on that journey. Through our hospitality, we can live out the gospel message, love our neighbors as ourselves, and see God bring transformation among the lives of everyone involved.

Join this journey to welcome our new neighbors! Visit our Afghan Support webpage and fill out the form to express your interest.