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AZ gets $5.6 million from feds to assist newly arrived Afghan families

By: - January 5, 2022 9:26 am
Afghanistan

Displaced Afghans reach out for aid from a local Muslim organization at a makeshift IDP camp on August 10, 2021, in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Taliban has taken control of the country since the United States accelerated withdrawal of its forces this year. Photo by Paula Bronstein | Getty Images

The federal government has sent more than $5.6 million to Arizona to help care for families that arrived in the Grand Canyon State after fleeing Afghanistan in 2021 when the nation’s government collapsed in the wake of the U.S. military’s withdrawal.

The federal funding is part of a short-term spending bill President Joe Biden signed in December, setting aside more than $7 billion to support the government’s operations to resettle Afghan allies in the United States following the end of the 20-year war in Afghanistan. That spending bill allocated nearly $1.3 billion to the Department of Health and Human Services to help Afghan refugees and humanitarian evacuees access services like temporary housing, medical and legal assistance, education services, English classes, and job training. 

Arizona received $4.4 million to support case management and employment services; $564,000 to help Afghan children and teens adapt to local school systems; and $633,000 to support Afghan families navigate the medical and mental healthcare systems, according to Arizona Department of Economic Security spokesman Brett Bezio. 

Bezio said another $1.7 million in federal funds is expected to arrive soon to boost case management and employment services

Arizona is expected to welcome 2,055 Afghan evacuees by March 31, said DES spokeswoman Tasya Peterson. Initially, the state had expected 1,600 translators who helped American troops, their families, and others fleeing Afghanistan to arrive in Arizona. 

So far, about 450 Afghan adults and children have arrived in the state since Aug. 15, Peterson said. Humanitarian Parolees and 10 Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Holders have arrived in Arizona since August 15, 2021.

While DES partners with the federal government to provide services to new refugees seeking to make Arizona their new home, the majority of the Afghans families who are arriving in the state don’t have refugee status. Instead, the federal government allowed them into the country through a humanitarian parole program, which allows them to temporarily live in the U.S. 

Advocates worried in September that there was a lack of clarity on whether humanitarian parolees will have be federal support to adapt to their new lives in the US, but the government has since announced they’ll have temporary access to the same services refugees get to help them start their new life in the country, but there’s no path to permanent immigration status. 

The other group that’s arriving from Afghanistan are those with protections under the Special Immigrant Visa, a program available to translators and interpreters who worked for U.S. troops or other Afghans who worked for the U.S. government or U.S.-based companies.

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Laura Gómez
Laura Gómez

Reporter Laura Gómez Rodriguez covers state politics and immigration for the Arizona Mirror. She was named Best Investigative Reporter by Phoenix Magazine in its 2018 newspaper category and has been honored by the Arizona Press Club for education, immigration, political, and public safety reporting and Spanish-language news and feature reporting. Laura worked for The Arizona Republic and La Voz Arizona for four years, covering city government, economic development, immigration, politics and trade. In 2017, Laura traveled the length of the U.S.-Mexico border for “The Wall,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning project produced by The Arizona Republic and USA Today Network. She is a native of Bogotá, Colombia and lived in Puerto Rico and Boston before moving to Phoenix in 2014. Catch her researching travel deals, feasting on mariscos or playing soccer.

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