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Arizona refugee organizations preparing to help Afghans resettle

US Afghanistan
Posted at 2:15 PM, Aug 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-25 14:15:51-04

PHOENIX — In a national address, President Biden said 6,400 Americans and Afghan allies were evacuated in a 12-hour span Tuesday.

Now the process begins to resettle those refugees in the United States.

Typically resettlement organizations say they have two weeks to prepare to welcome refugees. Still, with the chaotic and rapid withdrawal in Afghanistan, they now estimate they will have a 24-hour heads up.

"The federal government is evacuating, and certainly that is very chaotic and is a crisis," said Connie Phillips. "But once they come [to the U.S] and are going into the base, where they are being processed, that normal, 'this is what we do all the time' [feeling] starts to kick in."

Phillips is President and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest, one of the three resettlement organizations in Arizona.

"We greet them at the airport, we assist them by setting up an apartment for them, by helping them find jobs, enrolling their children in school, doing education around our culture, teaching the English language, helping them learn about transportation, and just settling into life in the United States," said Phillips.

The group has been welcoming families to Arizona since 1975.

"Arizona is a welcoming place for refugees," said Phillips. "Those who come have been vetted. And they are anxious to start their lives again and contribute to the United States...they give more than they ever take from us...[and] the majority of them become US citizens."

Right now, Phillips said she does not know how many refugees her organization will help resettle in Arizona. The number of people seeking Special Immigrant Visas, though, is unprecedented for modern times.

"They anticipate it’s about 50,000 [Afghans]," said Phillips

Arizona does not have a large Afghan community, according to Phillips. Traditionally cities and states with existing communities are more likely to welcome incoming refugees from the shared country of origin.

Some Afghans, who have already resettled in the Valley, told ABC15 they are working frantically to get relatives safely.

“I’m trying my best and trying to find a source. That way, I can get her out of there," said one man, who was with the Marines for seven years as a combat translator, referring to his younger sister.

While so many will leave their homes behind, the hope is that the allies and former military aids will one day call Arizona home.

"Refugee resettlement is good for Arizona, and it is starting again. We need people to come and walk alongside us," said Phillips.

Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest says they are always in need of volunteers and donations, especially now ahead of the influx. If you are interested in getting involved, you can learn more here.

Zach Crenshaw at KNXV first reported this story.