Houston nonprofit organizations gear up for influx of refugee arrivals

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- After years of attempts, 23-year-old Ahmad Walid from Afghanistan finally received a visa and came to the United States in March.

"Living in Afghanistan is very hard because there are many ways that a person can be killed," said Walid.

He said it was tough finding a place to live and work. However, he is thankful for his new, safer life.

"It was way beyond my dream, my desire," Walid expressed.

There was a downturn in refugees resettling in America during the previous administration, but then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Now, local organizations are gearing up to welcome more than 5,000 refugees to Houston this coming year.

"A majority of the refugees we have welcomed to the U.S. this year, and I think we will see, for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends in September, [most are from Afghanistan]," explained the executive director of Houston Welcomes Refugees, Hannah Quillin.

The United States withdrawing from Afghanistan is the main cause of the influx. Many refugees coming from Afghanistan will come through the Special Immigrant Visa Program, meaning they were employed by or on behalf of the U.S. Government.

Houston Welcomes Refugees and The Alliance both play a role in helping refugees get settled in our community. More than 100,000 refugees are expected to come to America this coming year.

"We had a huge exodus from Cuba before and we figured out, as a nation, how to take care of that," explained Dan Stoecker, CEO of The Alliance. "When there was the war in the Balkans, we figured out, as a nation, how to welcome those individuals and help take care of things. We can do this."

Although they are gearing up for more refugees to head to America, they are not expecting a larger number than ever before - just more than were accepted in recent years.

'There's a good system, and these are people once they are brought in and getting their culture orientation, they are going to be your neighbors that are working hard and caring about the exact same things you do," said Stoecker.
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