Welcome event held for hundreds of Afghan refugees as they arrive in Utah
WEST JORDAN, Utah — Hundreds of Afghan refugees that recently came to Utah met Monday night at the Utah Islamic Center in West Jordan. The United Afghan-American Coalition planned the night to give those recently relocated to the state a chance to get resources like food, clothing and other necessities.
They also met to pray together.
Shubair Aminzada escaped Taliban rule with her mother and older brother when she was 2 years old. Her father was killed by the Taliban, and she remembers the struggle of being new to the United States. She’s now the president of the United Afghan-American Coalition, an organization specifically designed to help refugees get acclimated to life in the U.S.
“Pretty much everyone that’s coming through, they’re coming with only the clothes on their back,” Aminzada told KSL TV. “They have nothing else.” Her uncle created the coalition.
Retired U.S. Army Col. Randy Watt served in Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002 as part of the National Guard Special Forces. He worked with many Afghans that were desperate to escape Afghanistan in August when the country abruptly fell into Taliban rule.
In August, U.S. allies that had helped him 20 years ago, and were still helping U.S. troops at the time, started calling him. They were desperate to flee. He put together a task force and started to work fast.
“These are good people,” Watt said, adding these are people that would likely be killed had they stayed in Afghanistan.
He says when the government collapsed, confusion set in, and the task force exploited that mayhem to get people to safety. “They have literally been snuck out of Afghanistan and taken to either third countries, where they were vetted, then moved to the United States,” Watt said.
The effort is personal to Watt not just because he knows many of the men and women he has helped save, but because of his grandfather, who immigrated from Afghanistan to the United States back in 2011. He’s one-quarter Pashtun.
West Jordan Police Chief Ken Wallentine, along with other government officials arrived at the event. Wallentine says these refugees, who have been through so much trauma, should get the help of a loving, caring community to support them.
“The best thing we can do is to do what we do best in Utah — that’s smile, welcome people to the community,” says Wallentine. “Help them feel safe and secure in our community and let them know we’re here to help them.”
Aminzada says that support is critical to making the refugees feel like they have a permanent, safe home here in Utah.
“We’re trying to help them build that sense of community and home.”
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