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Why several US cities are equipped to accept Afghan refugees

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Posted at 9:01 AM, Sep 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-09 12:10:40-04

CLEVELAND, Ohio — As Afghan refugees come into the United States, they’ll start new lives in 19 cities across the country chosen for their affordability, resources and welcoming communities.

“Well, Cleveland is one of the 19 cities across the United States designated to receive and welcome those from Afghanistan,” said Joe Cimpermann with Global Cleveland. “We don’t know how many are coming here, but that’s something we are preparing for.”

“This crisis quickly became much larger than just those folks on the special immigrant visa,” said Patrick Kearns with the Refugee Services Collaborative. “So, we have quite a few humanitarian parolees who have been evacuated from Afghanistan that are in transit or at a weigh station somewhere waiting to get to the U.S.”

All across the country, cities are preparing to take in Afghan refugees from the evacuation. Like many cities, Cleveland’s history is built from immigrants and the acceptance of refugees.

The U.S. military reported it’s prepared to house and process a total of 50,000 Afghan evacuees. Over the span of possibly six months, those evacuees will be spread among 19 different cities in the U.S.

The State Department recommended these cities because the cost of living is relatively affordable, along with the cities' experience with refugees.

“They’ve been coming here to Cleveland because of jobs,” Cimpermann said. “Entry-level jobs and manufacturing and our cost of living is one where you can actually buy a home and have a life here. Cleveland and northeast Ohio have been a site for people who have resettled from all over the world for a half a century. Whether it was the people coming from the Soviet Union who were Jewish, or people coming from Ethiopia or Albania. Cleveland has had for well over a century three organizations of people resettling from all over the world. Catholic charities, US Together, and the USCRI. And these organizations have been welcoming people who have been refugees for many years – and as a result of that it, Cleveland has a strong refugee community.”

Kearns with the Refugee Services Collaborative said cities like Cleveland have programs and work to give refugees sustainability.

“Our team is all resettled folks from a variety of different countries,” Kearns said. “We are able to provide them full-time work, good rate of pay and provide an environment on their particular needs and skillsets. There is a significant demand for labor. It’s not a question of will there be room for these new folks. It’s a question of how quickly we could get their paperwork processed and how quickly could we get them work authorization and how quickly we can get them connected to a job.”

In these cities, former refugees, like Thomas Kade, are working with organizations to give insight on what help they need when they first arrive.

“Living in a city is really risky for a family that just moved in,” Kade said. “Housing is expensive, and it’s difficult to find a job and travel. Cleveland here is just coming back to rebuild the economy so when refugees come in and immigrants come in, they support the economy, and work and pay tax and rebuild the city together.”

Other cities and areas where Afghan refugees may settle include Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Buffalo, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Houston, Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Northern New Jersey, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, Raleigh-Durham, Salt Lake City, and St. Louis.