In the midst of turmoil, Houston set to welcome Afghan refugees to new life

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The most diverse city in the country is poised to open its arms to welcome refugees escaping the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Houston and Houstonians have always opened their doors to refugees, including several thousand Afghan families that are already here.

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"It's a very frustrating situation right now," said Naqibullah Laghmanai, a former translator for the U.S. military.

Laghmanai was able to secure a refugee visa for himself and his wife, but his parents and other relatives remain in Kabul.

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"My dad, I applied for him. It's been 15 months. It's under process, and he worked for the government. Now I'm worried about his life and my parents," he said.

Laghmanai is not alone. Several thousand Afghan families call the Houston region home. Most came as refugees. They have since opened businesses, raised kids and become members of the community.

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Most refugees start their lives around the Hillcroft area, where The Alliance, a non-profit organization, operates a leading refugee resettlement program.

The Alliance has resettled five Afghanistan families within the last two weeks, and they expect many more in the coming months. The organization is accepting financial donations as well as household goods such as furniture and bedding.

Civil engineer Shukrullah Faigi said he hopes more Afghans can find safety in America.

"I feel very bad. I haven't been able to relax or sleep well at my apartment. I can't really focus or concentrate on my work," said Faigi.
Faigi also worked for the U.S. government in Afghanistan as an engineer building roads, bridges, and other projects. He got a special visa but knows thousands of his fellow Afghans who helped the U.S. remain in the country, and he worries.

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"They are in so much shock, desperate situation. As you guys are aware, the situation changed so rapidly, nobody expected," he said.

The Alliance said that besides helping resettle new refugees, they also have trained, bilingual staff ready to deploy to U.S. military bases around the country, which are set to receive thousands of refugees for processing. In Houston, they are now working to find affordable housing for the families that will soon become Houstonians.

"We think the Texans are welcoming new refugees coming here," said Laghmanai. "But we're also asking Texans to stand up and support these newcomers."
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