At Every Step, Afghans Coming to America Face Obstacles


Up to 4,000 Afghans are displaced from camps and resettled every week, and “this is an effort that will continue,” Markell said.

He acknowledged the frustration of Afghans and said officials had tried to answer more of their questions in recent weeks. “If we were in their shoes, we would want the same,” Markell said. “We would all like to know, as quickly as possible, where we are going to build our new life. “

Refugee agencies have been overwhelmed with caring for Afghan families who are displaced in American communities. A family of 10, including a newborn, had no money or benefits when they moved outside Washington DC and depended on grocery deliveries from the Muslim Association of Virginia. In Houston, some Afghans have been placed in crime-ridden neighborhoods and live in apartments with dilapidated toilets or black mold in the bathrooms, and scavenge supplies from garbage piles or borrow from neighbors.

“There are pregnant women who have slept on hard floors with no blankets, no mattresses,” said Shekeba Morrad, an Afghan-American community organizer in Washington DC and Northern Virginia, who works with a national group trying to monitor the situation of the new Afghans arrived.

Hamid Wahidy, 34, and his family traveled to the Quantico camp by a route that first took them to Qatar, Germany and Dulles International Airport outside of Washington. They stayed at camp for 40 days before moving into a small Airbnb in San Diego. In the first month, there was a blur of bureaucratic shuffling to receive his Social Security card, which he needed to open a bank account, get a driver’s license, apply for a job and enroll his children in school.

A few weeks later, he moved into a bigger house. It cost her $ 3,400 – for a month’s rent and a security deposit – out of the $ 5,000 the family received from a relocation agency. He did not immediately receive the food stamps and other perks he expected under a spending bill that Congress passed in September that included $ 6.3 billion in increased assistance to arriving Afghans.

The legislation also did not provide for an expedited legal residency process for Mr. Wahidy and other Afghans. Without it, immigration advocates say, they could potentially be deported.


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