The Afghan Crisis
You have no doubt heard of the horrific events unfolding in Afghanistan in recent days. Some of you may have seen the compelling images of hundreds of people crammed into cargo planes anxiously awaiting their evacuation at the eleventh hour, once the capital city of Kabul fell under Taliban control.
We all wonder what we can do, given that this crisis seems so far away, and so huge that it is hard to imagine how we can make a difference. Yet, the reality is that not only is it possible to make a real, tangible impact on the lives of refugees now fleeing Afghanistan; it is actually very LIKELY you can make a difference by bringing peace and calm to their lives as they arrive in the United States.
Even now, some of the Afghan families that were initially evacuated into Virginia are dispersing to central New Jersey for permanent resettlement. The Afghan refugees arriving have SIVs (Special Immigrant Visas). This type of visa is extended to Afghan nationals and their immediate families who aided the US government for at least 2 years before the American withdrawal. This is not temporary asylum--- SIV holders are here to make the US their new permanent home. They will receive green cards (lawful permanent resident cards) and are eligible (and expected) to work and receive services here.
RAP is now connecting to several Afghan refugee families locally. We will need volunteers to welcome them, bring food, collect basic necessities, and the like. That’s the easy part. The more pressing matter is that the refugees are coming in the middle of a severe housing shortage. There are simply not enough safe, affordable apartments available in central New Jersey to meet the need, not just for refugee families, but for the public at large. We are also facing an unemployment gap and depressed wages. Since SIV holders’ previous employment is skilled yet unverifiable through the usual channels, obtaining gainful employment here is challenging.
FOR BUSINESSES and OTHER ORGANIZATIONS: Most refugees who have newly arrived do not yet have a New Jersey drivers’ license and do not own a car, yet are adept at taking a bus. Most men in the households have some English—some have excellent English skills. Many were professionals in Afghanistan. Given these circumstances, please consider hiring a refugee, even if only temporarily until their work record is established. They may become your hardest working, most motivated employees!
FOR CLERGY AND FAITH LEADERS: As clergy and leaders within faith communities, you have a unique gift to network throughout the state to help alleviate the housing problem. There are some faith communities and congregations who have parsonages, rectories, and other residential buildings that are currently not in use. These would be perfect homes for refugee families for their first 6-12 months until more permanent housing is identified. It is even possible that the use of one of these buildings could provide a long-term housing solution in general, as families move on to their own apartment or house and the next families arrive anew.
seeking out an available residence for RAP to use for the purpose of housing a refugee family;
asking fellow clergy and faith leaders to help in this search;
asking members of your congregations and people on the denominational level to help identify housing;
underwriting a full or partial year of at- or below-market rent, if this or another residence is found.
RAP will assist the refugees in getting established, and then the families themselves will be able to take over the rent for their residence. Once that happens, they will be ready to move to a more permanent living arrangement.
FOR COMMUNITY MEMBERS: RAP is coordinating with One World One Love in central New Jersey, Refugee Assistance Morris Partners (RAMP) in Morris County, Welcome Home Jersey City and the International Rescue Committee in Elizabeth NJ to provide various basic needs until the families get established. If you can help provide support (emotional, spiritual, material, financial or any combination) for an Afghan family, please email RAP at firstname.lastname@example.org to make arrangements. You can also click on the Donate button at the top of this page.
We look forward to partnering with you in welcoming our new friends to New Jersey.