We’re about to have some new neighbors, and we should welcome them.
An important part of pulling U.S. troops out of the decades-long war in Afghanistan is helping Afghans who helped our cause while we were there. President Joe Biden notified governors and refugee coordinators across the nation that about 37,000 will be resettling in various states soon, including dozens who will join us in Louisiana by the end of the month.
According to Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, 49 Afghan refugees will be resettling in the Baton Rouge area soon. Another 10 are expected to resettle in the New Orleans area. Each refugee played an important role with keeping us safe from attacks or they are related to someone who did. Each has undergone extensive security clearances.
As a part of our withdrawal, the United States promised Afghans who assisted us, and their families, that we would honor our nation’s commitment to keep them safe. In many cases, the Biden administration fell short in that mission and Afghan allies were left behind.
Republicans and Democrats can debate who is to blame for that blunder, but all sides should agree that the Afghans that did get out deserve all the bounties America can offer. Among those speaking loudest in support of the refugees are veterans of the long war years in Afghanistan.
As anyone knows of the Taliban, there is little chance that any friend of the United States can avoid punishment or death at the hands of the newly restored Islamic dictatorship.
The United States government put federal funds behind the effort as did some of our allied nations. Here, Catholic Charities is getting financial assistance to help make it happen. But that money and services for the relocated only go so far. It is good for a few months at most.
At some point, the Louisiana Afghans will have new lives in our state and they’ll be responsible for themselves. Meanwhile, Catholic Services is looking for individuals and families who can make the transition easier. The Afghans need rental assistance, jobs, cultural orientation and help navigating their new communities.
There’s a chance that Congress may extend financial assistance beyond the current 90 days, but Catholic Charities wants to make sure our new neighbors have a good start. Sponsors are needed to help refugees with some basics. That includes medical appointments, furniture and learning how to get around.
“Catholic Charities has experience with helping people who have assisted our troops,” said David C. Aguillard, director of Catholic Charities in Baton Rouge. “We did it after the Vietnam War, we did it after the wars in Iraq.”
The people of Louisiana include descendants of many nations, but have a special tie to Acadian ancestors driven from French Canada by the victorious British in the 18th century. The needs of the Afghans are different but their situation is one that the people of our state can understand.
Aguillard said taking in the Afghan interpreters and guides is the least Americans can do after all they did for us. We agree.