Afghans are still adapting to the United States

WASHINGTON – Taliban forces have taken control of the Afghan capital. Crowds of panicked people gathered at the airport. And a young man who worked as a subcontractor in the US Army faced a terrible choice.

Hasibullah Hasrat, after navigating the chaotic streets and Taliban checkpoints to get inside the airport, could either go back with his wife’s two small children or board an evacuation flight to pick them up later. Not taking the flight probably meant that none of them would leave Afghanistan.

Hasrat’s decision haunts him. He is in the United States, one of more than 78,000 Afghans admitted to the country since the withdrawal of US troops in August, which ended America’s longest-running war. However, his family could not join him. They are still in Afghanistan, where the economic crisis has led to widespread famine, where Taliban pressure is mounting.

Hasibullah Hasrat, now in the United States, is moved by the news of his family, from whom he separated a year ago, on May 4, 2022.

“My wife is alone there,” he said, his voice broken as he described nightly phone calls home. “My son is crying, he asks where I am, when I come, and I do not know what to say.”

It is a reminder that the journey of many Afghans who arrived in the United States during the historic evacuation is still an ongoing endeavor, filled with uncertainty and anxiety about the future.

Afghan refugees, some of whom have faced possible retaliation for working with their government or US forces during the war with the Taliban, say in interviews that they are grateful to the United States for rescuing their family members.

But they often struggle to settle in a new country, trying to pay their bills as government և relocation agencies run out of aid, stay in temporary shelters, try to figure out how to apply for asylum as most Afghans find themselves in a two-year emergency. under a condition known as humanitarian parole.

“We’re not sure what could happen,” said Gulsom Esmaelzade, whose family has been moving between hotel rooms in San Diego since January after spending three months at a New Jersey military base. “We have nothing at home in Afghanistan, we have no future here either.”

Gulsom Esmaelzade, 35, sitting on the right with his sisters, Shoria Esmaelzadeh, 34, and Susan Esmaelzadeh, 28, in a hotel room where Susan slept on May 4, 2022 in San Diego. The family moved to a hotel room in San Diego in January.

It’s overloaded. Esmaelzade says her mother was taken to an ambulance three times when her blood pressure reached dangerous levels. Younger women associate it with the stress of their lives.

Then there are the more daunting challenges, which are still terrifying to many Afghans. These include learning English, navigating state bureaucracies, public transportation, and finding work.

There is isolation for those like Hasrat who have come alone. “I do not know anyone here,” he said in an apartment outside Washington, which he shares with two other evacuees. “I have no friends, family, relatives. “I just live with my roommates and my roommates are from other parts of Afghanistan.”

Some were able to succeed. “But there are many more who do not do well than do well,” said Megan Flores, executive director of the Immigrant and Refugee Assistance Center in McLean, Virginia.

The experience of the evacuated Afghans is not similar to what the refugees have historically encountered when coming to the United States. In some ways, this is a prelude to up to 100,000 Ukrainians, whom President Joe Biden says will be welcomed, as is often the case with a two-year humanitarian parole.

Afghans on parole should seek refuge in the country, such as asylum. It is a time-consuming process that usually requires finding an immigration lawyer, which costs thousands of dollars and is not readily available to most refugees until they can find someone who can do it for free.

The Department of Homeland Security says about half of the 78,000 will eventually be eligible for a special immigrant visa or SIV program. It gives permanent residency to people who have worked in the US Government with their immediate family. Hasrat has not been able to provide SIV, at least not yet, despite its work as a subcontractor creating transmission lines for the US military.

Congress can resolve the situation by adopting the Afghanistan Adaptation Act, which will allow IDPs to apply for permanent residency in the country after one year, as well as previously provided assistance to people from Iraq, Cuba and Vietnam. Biden recently stepped up his efforts when he approved the idea of ​​adding it to the forthcoming aid bill to Ukraine, a move welcomed by a coalition of veterans, religious organizations and resettlement agencies.

“They are facing a time bomb, what will happen if they do not get SIV or asylum status,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, head of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. “Are they being deported to Afghanistan? Are they in danger?”

At the same time, Afghans are trying to create new lives as public attention shifts to other Ukrainian issues. Hundreds of evacuees were at a recent job fair in Alexandria, Virginia, including Arafat Safi, a former senior Afghan State Department official who came to the United States with his wife and four children.

Madina Safi, 28, trains 18-year-old Marjan Enate, who is also a recent refugee from Afghanistan, as they work in a bakery in a Virginia grocery store on April 14, 2022.

She hopes to find work in project management or international development, benefit from an education that includes a master’s degree from the UK. , Madina, works in the bakery department of a supermarket.

Safin said he still hopes to find a better job and wants to get permanent residency. But he never complained during a lengthy interview at a family home in Alexandria. The sophisticated, vibrant Afghan rug, the only property the family has brought home, occupies a prominent place in the living room.

“I am just happy to be here, to be welcomed by the American public. “I met a lot of friends here who check on me almost every day,” said Safin, 35. “And it’s amazing. “But there is a small part of me that misses Afghanistan, misses my people.”

Hasrat said he had little time to think about anything other than his family, the danger they posed to the Taliban. A 29-year-old former boxer, he rides a bicycle in the medical office as an administrative assistant. After taxes and money sent home, he is barely enough to pay the bills. His roommates, who are still learning English, have even less, and they have a hard time paying the rent.

Many nights Hasrat waits until it is too late to have a video interview with his family. During a recent call, she tried to join her children’s birthday party, but was saddened to learn that even her daughter did not know her.

“I tell them, ‘Yes, I’m happy, because if I tell them my condition here, they will be sad,'” he said. “But if there is no one to take care of your wife, how can you be happy?”

Watson reported from San Diego.

Afghans are still adapting to the United States

SourceAfghans are still adapting to the United States

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