The Orange County Board of Supervisors are calling on President Joe Biden to increase the cap on refugees brought into this country to include an additional 100,000 Afghan refugees.
The board unanimously voted at Tuesday’s public meeting on an impromptu resolution in support of a three-step plan for the resettlement of Afghan refugees in the U.S. following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan earlier this month.
“This is our commitment, as a country, to that fight that we have always espoused, which is the fight for democracy, for basic human dignity, for human rights, and opportunity and justice for all,” Supervisor Chair Andrew Do at the meeting, who worked on the resolution with Supervisor Doug Chaffee.
He added: “When we lend our voice, lend our resources to help these refugees, we are saying to the world that we are with you and that message of hope is huge. It is so important because left behind will be millions of people that will have to live with the carnage of that broken system, now in Afghanistan, and for the last 46 years in Vietnam, and other parts of the world as well.”
Do and his family escaped Vietnam in 1975 one day before the Fall of Saigon with the help of the U.S. military.
In an opinion piece published by the OC Register, he urged Biden and Congress to act swiftly and create a process to admit Afghan refugees and establish resettlement opportunities for them in the U.S.
“As Vietnamese Americans watch the heartbreaking images from Kabul Airport, we are reliving the trauma and deep pain felt during Black April 1975,” reads his opinion article.
As part of the plan, the resolution calls for resources to be allocated to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to speed up the process of all immigration applications and for the U.S. Department of Justice to grant parole to Afghan refugees.
The OC Board of Supervisors’ support for the refugees comes on the heels of the U.S. having helped evacuate about 58,700 of people from Afghanistan, since mid-August, according to a White House tweet.
United States troops are expected to withdraw from Afghanistan by Aug. 31 after two decades of war intended to target Al-Qaeda’s presence in the country following 9/11.
Biden is facing pressure from allied forces and lawmakers here to extend the Aug. 31 deadline as thousands try to flee Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, according to the Washington Post.
Chaffee and Do are holding a press conference tomorrow at the Asian Garden Mall in Westminster from 10:30 to 11 a.m. regarding their resettlement plan.
Biden set the refugee admissions cap to 62,500 people earlier this year.
The situation in Afghanistan hits close to home for many in Orange County.
Fayaz Nawabi, an Afghani American and policy and advocacy manager for the Council on American Islamic Relations — Greater Los Angeles area, said his own father, who is an American citizen, was stuck in Afghanistan.
“One of the recent conversations I had with them. He said as he was about to go through the checkpoint, a mother gave her daughter, an infant daughter, to him and she said please hold my daughter because my other child is lost. I can’t find him. This is what’s happening right now at the airport.,” Nawabi said at Tuesday’s board meeting.
Between 2015-2019, there were over 41,000 Afghan immigrants in California with 3,300 in Orange County, according to the Migrant Policy Institute.
Supervisors Lisa Bartlett and Katrina Foley said people have reached out to them who have family members trying to flee the country.
“Once refugees get here, we can offer a lot of services from the county perspective. We’ve got to get them out of Afghanistan first,” Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said during Tuesday’s meeting. “Every day is critical to getting these individuals, these families, these mothers and fathers and children out of Afghanistan and getting them to a safer environment.”
Foley said the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan was “probably the most significant humanitarian crisis of our time” and said the women and girls of Afghanistan must be helped.
“The girls and the women in Afghanistan are already under attack. 20 years of work towards freedoms and the rights that we all enjoy here, without even blinking about it are being stripped away,” she said.
The resolution also calls for the federal government to establish partnerships with nonprofits to support refugee resettlement in communities across the country.
Access California Services — a health and human services organization — issued a news release last week announcing they are prepared to assist asylum seekers in Orange County and Los Angeles.
They will hold an open door policy for the Afghan community to receive financial support, mental health and immigration services.
“Our team is prepared and ready to provide every service that is needed to continue assisting the Afghan community right now,” said founder and executive director Nahla Kayali in the release.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.