As the Taliban take over Afghanistan, thousands of Afghans have been displaced and many of them are seeking refuge in Houston, Texas, to escape the dangers of living under the brutal extremist regime.
The Afghan evacuees, who have arrived in Houston fleeing their homeland, are allies of the United States military. Last week, 100 Afghan evacuees were relocated to Houston from Fort Lee, Virginia. The executive director of the South Texas Office of Refugees, Kimberly Haynes, shared that they expect a hundred more evacuees by next week, Houston Chronicle reported.
But not a lot of Afghan evacuees can continue to fly to Houston with ease. This is because of the physical barriers set up by the Taliban outside the airport in Kabul. Commercial flights out of Afghanistan have since been halted, so the only way to get out of the country is through U.S. military flights.
This is not the first time that Afghans have relocated to Houston. Since 2009, 11,790 Afghans arrived in Houston, and 90 percent of them had Special Immigrant Visas. Such a type of visa is granted to individuals who assisted the United States military in Afghanistan and Iraq. Most of them served in the military as interpreters.
Obtaining Special Immigrant Visas could take up to 10 years to complete. Aside from letters of support from the United States, the applicants will need to prove that their life is in danger. As of June 2021, around 18,000 Special Immigrant Visas applicants, who served as interpreters, were still waiting for their documents to be processed.
In preparation for more Afghan refugees arriving in Houston, five local refugee organizations are working together. These organizations are Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Interfaith Ministries of Galveston-Houston, Refugee Services of Texas, The Alliance, and YMCA International Services.
Those who want to help may volunteer through these organizations. They can also give financial donations or check out the wish lists for supplies by the organizations.