County of Santa Clara Increases Resources to Help Families Fleeing Afghanistan
Santa Clara County is expected to receive approximately 300 refugees in the next 12 months
SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF.— The County of Santa Clara is preparing to assist about 300 refugees in the coming months, many of whom are fleeing political turmoil in Afghanistan after the country was taken over by the Taliban last month. On Tuesday, the County Board of Supervisors approved unanimously a measure asking the administration to find additional funding to provide resettlement assistance that covers housing, food, employment, and transportation needs for newly arriving refugees.
“These services forge a critical lifeline for arriving families and will provide support and care during an extraordinarily traumatic and unsettling time,” said Supervisor Susan Ellenberg. “As a County, it has always been part of our core values to be a place of refuge for those in need and this is absolutely a moment when we can and should be reinforcing that mission.”
Supervisor Otto Lee, who is a retired U.S. Navy commander and served as the chief of Drawdown Material Policies in Iraq in 2009, called it heart wrenching to witness the chaos in Afghanistan.
“Many of these refugees are Afghans who served the American military as translators,” said Supervisor Lee. “Despite the risk of persecution, they supported American military interests. During this time of crisis, we must step up and respond urgently to provide whatever assistance they need to seek safety for themselves and their families.”
The measure approved on Tuesday authorizes to use up to $750,000 in one-time funding, along with annual contract increases from $185,000 to $250,000 for each of two refugee service providers: the Jewish Family Services of Silicon Valley (JFS SV) and the International Rescue Committee (IRC). The funding will help meet the higher demand for services. Approximately 300 refugees are expected to arrive in the next 12 months, compared to about 50 refugees who resettled in Santa Clara County over the past year.
“Santa Clara County has served as a resettlement location for other communities fleeing persecution and danger,” said Miguel Márquez, Chief Operating Officer of the County of Santa Clara. “Coming together to help others during their most trying time is one of our greatest strengths as a community. This is who we are; this is where our diversity and cultural richness comes from.”
In Santa Clara County, about 50,000 residents (or one out of every 40) are refugees who have relied on local resettlement services. Shukran Nazari is one of those refugees.
After working for almost a decade for the U.S. Army and the American embassy in Afghanistan, 27-year-old Nazari left his home country in 2016 to escape threats made against his life. He arrived in Santa Clara County with his wife and two small children – and nothing more than a suitcase of clothing. While relieved to find safe harbor, he quickly realized they did not have even a single kitchen utensil to eat a meal, or diapers for his 3-month-old son.
“We had nothing. Everything was new for us and there was no one to navigate us. We had to pay out of pocket when my 3-month-old son got sick because we did not have health insurance,” Nazari said. “Housing needs, kitchen supplies, blankets, serving dishes – we appreciated everything that was given to us. It is a blessing to be here; we thank God and the people who have helped us.”
With the help of resettlement services from JFS SV, he was able to build a life for his family without the daily fear of persecution. But, Nazari says, the chaos in Afghanistan remains on his mind every minute of each day. He described a family member’s house in Afghanistan, recently sprayed with bullets by the Taliban. His relatives remain in hiding and are safe – for now.
“No one over there is safe. Not my family, not anyone else’s family,” Nazari said. “People who are being evacuated from Afghanistan need every single thing, including diapers, clothes, kitchen supplies. Please, whatever you can do, try to help.”
To learn more about the local work being done for refugees and how to help, visit the websites for JFS SV and IRC.
The County of Santa Clara government serves a diverse, multi-cultural population of 1.9 million residents in Santa Clara County, California, making it more populous than 14 states in the U.S. The County provides essential services to its residents, including public health protection, environmental stewardship, medical services through the County of Santa Clara Health System, child and adult protection services, homelessness prevention and solutions, roads, park services, libraries, emergency response to disasters, protection of minority communities and those under threat, access to a fair criminal justice system, and many other public benefits.