The 1,500 Afghan refugees who are headed to Colorado in the next year to resettle after fleeing their country last month are going to need more than school supplies and a toothbrush when they get here. This week, Gov. Jared Polis announced the creation of a fund where companies and residents can donate money for critical services like physical health, mental health and legal assistance.
The Colorado Afghan Support Fund is up and running in conjunction fiscally with Rose Community Foundation. Polis is one of 37 governors who have announced that Afghan evacuees are welcome to start a new life in the states. According to his press release, most of the Afghans headed to Colorado will resettle in the Denver metro area.
Organizers are hoping to collect $5.6 million for the fund, which will then be funneled to non-profits in the area, "We utilized the expertise within committed partners, and we utilized the expertise within our state government agencies to identify areas with the greatest resource gaps, to include mental health and health supports and services," said Victoria Graham, spokesperson for the governor's office.
Recently, the White House projected 865 Afghans were going to resettle in Colorado. But state organizations say they based that on previous resettlement patterns, they are expecting up to 2,000 people with most of those landing in metro Denver and Colorado Springs.
Some governors, including Wyoming’s Mark Gordon, say they are not interested in taking in Afghan refugees or those who hold Special Immigration Visas or SIV’s.
So far, around 31,000 Afghans have arrived in the United States and are being processed, according to reporting from the New York Times.
There are two ways to get here: by gaining refugee status or by obtaining a special SIV, and it's expensive. Many Afghans who are still hiding out from the Taliban don't have the hundreds of dollars needed for application fees and legal advice.
According to the State Department, Qatar Airways continues to fly U.S. citizens and “lawful permanent residents” out of Kabul. The latest flight, which left Sunday, evacuated 61 people.
A recent CBS News poll indicates that 80% of Americans approve of helping Afghans who worked for U.S. troops and officials in recent years who might now face punishment from the Taliban.
HELP FOR FAMILIES STILL STRANDED IN AFGHANISTAN
The Colorado Afghan Support Fund will go toward Afghans who have made it out and are being vetted at eight military bases across the country, but there are still Afghans left behind who are in fear of their lives.
Wahid Omar and a group of American volunteers have helped 28 of those families flee to the United States, but he says there are still 140 families stranded and broke, and in need of money in order to start the approval process.
“These are professors and businesswomen, journalists, and attorneys who represent the intelligence of Afghanistan,” says Omar, who fled Afghanistan as a teenager during the Soviet Invasion.
It costs $575 per person for an application fee. “For a family of six, it’s impossible to raise that much money.” There are just a few cases, he says, and these people are at risk. Says Omar, “They’ll pay the money back. These are hardworking people who will contribute to life in the United States.”