IDAHO — One of the top goals during America's rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan was just getting people out of the country before the Taliban took over. Now those thousands of American allies need a new home and hundreds of them are coming to Idaho.
The Idaho Office for Refugees held a virtual panel on September 14th, 2021, to talk about Idaho's role in the resettlement of Afghan refugees. In addition to the logistical information, panelists shared personal stories about being a refugee or being a veteran who fought in Afghanistan.
Nawid Mousa came to Boise as a refugee in 2008 and is originally from Afghanistan. He’s now a civil engineer and a US citizen. He says resettlement agencies were a crucial resource when his family first arrived in the US.
"For example, how to get involved in school, how to get involved in university, how to get good English classes for example for my mother," Mousa said.
He still has family in Afghanistan who worked with the US military and he said they're in danger.
Master Sgt. Robert Holmes said he agrees. He was an advisor for the Afghan army and says US service members were proud to stand side by side with their Afghan allies, but now he says the U.S. has left them high and dry.
“It kills us, the people that you know put all our time and effort in terms of building Afghanistan up to what it was,” Holmes said.
In response, the Biden administration said they remain committed to helping Americans and Afghan allies leave Afghanistan.
As for the refugees who made it out, the International Rescue Committee in Boise says 400 Afghan refugees will be resettled in Idaho starting in October 2021, but they won't arrive all at once.
“We typically see about half of the total number of people who are coming are children so probably about 200 children," said Julianne Donnelly Tzul, the executive director of the International Rescue Committee in Boise.
Gov. Brad Little and all four members of the Idaho Congressional Delegation sent a letter to the president, saying the state wants more say in the federal resettlement process.
But Tzul said they’ve been talking with local communities including schools, medical systems, local government and law enforcement. Tzul said state and local leaders are welcome to participate in an upcoming quarterly meeting to discuss refugee resettlement in Idaho.
The letter also questions the vetting process. It said in part, "To ensure Idahoans have peace of mind this unprecedent[ed] resettlement, the Idaho State Police have been directed to work in tandem with local refugee coordinators to develop additional state vetting measures to ensure the safety and well-being of the people of Idaho."
Tzul said the current vetting process goes through multiple federal agencies, layers of intelligence, and a pre-departure and post-arrival medical screening.
“It doesn’t just happen once. You don’t get one security clearance. For a person to make it through this process their name and their background are checked over and over and over again," she said.
For more information on how you can help refugees being resettled in Idaho, click here.