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Up to 500 Afghan refugees expected to resettle in southern Arizona

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 10:36 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - We are learning more about how many Afghan refugees are expected to resettle in southern Arizona.

Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik said Gov. Doug Ducey informed the city that 300-500 Afghans could make their way to our region.

“That number, though, is really just the tip of the iceberg because we are continuing to see Central American migrants,” he said. “We are seeing Haitians.”

The first Afghan families should arrive in October, but the biggest challenge is finding enough affordable housing.

“We take them to a fully furnished apartment that has everything in it,” said Connie Phillips, the President and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest. “We are not looking for bedrooms or something that’s attached to a home because it’s a self-sufficiency program. It makes the assumption that people are going to come to the United States and are going to get jobs and be able to support themselves.”

Given their dire situation, however, Phillips said Afghans didn’t go through the typical process. They are at military bases undergoing security and health screenings, and many don’t have work permits yet.

“Each of the families that come under the [Special Immigrant Visas] program are going to get $1,200 plus [from the federal government],” said Kozachik. “One time.”

When asked if the City of Tucson will dip into its funds to help carry these families until they can work, Kozachik told KOLD News 13 it’s an “evolving situation.”

“We are absolutely hoping that the federal government is going to recognize this is a federal issue,” he said. “We are absolutely happy to handle this at the local level, but you can’t hand us an unfunded mandate.”

He wants the federal government to drop restrictions on emergency COVID-19 funding.

“These are human beings, first and foremost,” said Kozachik. “Overtime, yeah, they are going to be productive members of this community.”

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero released the following statement:

“The City of Tucson is committed to doing everything we can to ensure that persons arriving from Afghanistan have a smooth transition. We welcome Afghan refugees and evacuees into our Tucson community with open arms.”

If you would like to help Lutheran Social Services furnish homes for refugees, click HERE.

To become a refugee mentor, click HERE.

Steve Kozachik is collecting donations for Afghan refugees, migrants and those experiencing homelessness. You can drop off non-perishable food items, clothing, hygiene products, backpacks, suitcases and toys at the Ward 6 office weekdays from 9 a.m. until 5pm. It’s located at 3202 East 1st Street.

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