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In our last weekly briefing, we talked about our role in the world. The Afghanistan withdrawal, Russia invading Ukraine, the concerns over China and their handling of Hong Kong and recent provocations with Taiwan, and the people now seeking America for refuge. This all draws us to the question of what the role of the United States should be. Do we ignore the rest of the world and attempt to isolate ourselves, actively maneuver to maintain peace around the world, or only engage after things get bad enough? This is the foreign policy debate our country has argued since our formation and will continue to fluctuate based on the mood and convictions of the American people.

Regardless of how we feel about our engagement around the world, we have had a growing number of Afghans who supported our efforts in their region as translators, intelligence gatherers, or support staff, now seeking refuge in America because of the threat on their life by the Taliban. We are people who take pride in honoring our commitments and standing by our friends and allies when they need our help. These people need us and here in Texas, we have three organizations working with the U.S. Department of State to resettle those friends of the U.S. in our area. 

Over the last couple of weeks, we had the opportunity to meet with two of the three organizations: YMCA International and the Alliance, a United Way Affiliate Agency. In the past several years, refugee resettlement in the U.S. had been reduced dramatically, so the Afghan crisis put a big strain on these organizations and the entire system. Since August when the refugees started the resettlement process, these organizations added a substantial number of staff members (Alliance grew from 8 to 38 and YMCA had similar increases) and ceased COVID related remote working to get the team back under one roof to better serve the people.

The strain was also on the system, as HHS dismantled teams designated for refugee resettlement due to the resettlements quotas being drastically cut during the Trump Administration. The natural turnover in the agency further exacerbated the issue as these organizations now work to process Afghanistan refugees (in addition to refugees from around the world) with government agency personnel who are not always well versed on how to process these forms. Additionally, the Social Security Administration office in Texas continues to operate remotely with very minimal staff, leaving both refugees and other Texas citizens frustrated at the lack of ability to reach an employee to get anything done. We have reached out to multiple federal offices to get this addressed. 

The primary objective of the refugee resettlement program, and the organizations working directly with the refugees, is to get these individuals and families self-sufficient as quickly as possible. The refugees overwhelmingly come here in hopes of being part of the American Dream and admiration of the freedoms and liberties we have here. Many are skilled workers and even those that are not, they come eager to work and provide for their family and contribute to our community. 
With that in mind, we seek to welcome them with open arms. As Moses shared in Deuteronomy 10:18-19, “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt,” and echoed in the great commandment given to us by Jesus in Matthew 22:36. As Christians, and as good neighbors in Texas, we have responsibilities to the thousands of refugees who are in the process of resettling in our area. How can we help?

The YMCA and the Alliance, along with the other refugee resettlement agencies, have information on their websites about how to get involved. You are welcome to check that out directly. We also spoke with these 
  • Adopt a family: Get to know a family from Afghanistan, invest in their transition to our area, and help them meet the unexpected life needs that come up. This can mean checking in to make sure they have sufficient food and shelter, driving them to a doctor’s appointment, or inviting them to watch the Astros at your home. This option is a crucial investment into a family as they navigate all the little changes included in moving halfway around the world usually with nothing from back home. 
  • Volunteer at events: If you would like to volunteer, but cannot commit to consistent amounts of time, the organizations host events like food drives where they need volunteers. The organizations also host classes that teach refugees about opening bank accounts, setting up LinkedIn accounts, interviewing for jobs, and more. All of these activities need volunteers.
  • Become an English practice partner: While many of the Afghan refugees speak English, some of the members of their families do not. You can help them practice their English by volunteering to sit down and have conversations. No other language skills are required for volunteers to teach English. 
  • Hire a refugee: A critical need for refugees right now is employment. If you are one of the many business owners in our area currently hiring someone, this is a great option for you to consider. The Afghan refugees looking for employment tend to be highly skilled, hard workers, they tend to stay in one company for long periods of time and are eligible to work legally in the U.S. Due to transportation concerns, if you are able to hire 4 or more employees from the refugee community, this helps with volunteer transportation, but it is not a requirement. 
  • Donate vehicles: We are a very vehicle-dependent area. This is naturally a complication for refugee families trying to get to government office appointments and job interviews. Volunteers and the resettlement organizations are working around the clock to help transport people, and many refugees will walk hours each way to make it to classes and appointments on time. If you have a vehicle you do not need, consider donating it to one of the refugee organizations listed above. 
Let us know your thoughts!
You might have skills and ideas we did not list in here. If you have suggestions about how we can serve our refugee neighbors, we would love to hear them. You can use the button below to share your thoughts with us. 
Jacey Jetton
State Representative
Texas House District 26

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