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Chicago Prepares to Welcome Hundreds of Afghan Refugees


Tuesday, August 31, 2021   

CHICAGO -- In the coming weeks and months, more than 500 Afghans are expected to make their homes in Chicago, following the U.S. withdrawal from and Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

Resettlement agencies are working to support refugees entering Illinois with housing, employment, English classes, health care and more.

Sima Quraishi, executive director of the Muslim Women Resource Center in Chicago, fled Afghanistan when she was 10 years old after the Soviet invasion. She said the people who are fleeing now, like her and her family before, are in need of support and resources to get on their feet in a new place.

"Now is the time to stand with our Afghans," Quraishi urged. "It is our moral obligation to protect, defend and welcome them and their families. It is central to who I am; it is central to who we are as a nation."

More than a dozen Chicago aldermen on Monday signed a letter to President Joe Biden, to indicate Chicago is ready and willing to help bring Afghan allies out of danger and to a welcoming city.

In May, Biden said he plans to increase the refugee cap to 125,000 in the fiscal year starting in October, but some lawmakers are calling for more.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. from Chicago, is calling on the Biden administration to let in 200,000 refugees next year. She said her office has heard from hundreds of people trying to get their relatives safely out of Afghanistan, and she joins calls to give Afghan people Temporary Protected Status in the U.S.

"Afghans of all immigration status must be able to access affordable housing, food, health care and legal and governmental services," Schakowsky argued.

Advocacy groups and resettlement agencies are accepting volunteers and donations to help refugees with airport pickups, meal assistance, mentorship, tutoring and other services. They also urged concerned residents to contact the White House and their representatives in Congress to express support for helping as many Afghans as possible seek safety.

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