News

Santa Clara County readies for surge of refugees following U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan

Local resettlement groups say they need more funding to support 500 refugees expected in the next year

Santa Clara County supervisors voted to pour $880,000 into refugee resettlement services for Afghan refugees. Screenshot obtained via Santa Clara County video.

Santa Clara County is expecting a dramatic increase in refugees following the United States' withdrawal from Afghanistan, with nonprofits estimating that more than 500 people will need to be resettled over the next 12 months.

The incoming surge of refugees means hundreds of newly arriving families will need immediate access to everything from housing and food to English instruction and job training. Yet funding for these services is limited and has been curtailed in recent years. Santa Clara County's Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to beef up that funding, providing an extra $880,000 to assist in refugee resettlement.

More than 50,000 Afghan refugees are expected to enter the United States following the military withdrawal from Afghanistan on Aug. 30, according to Department of Homeland Security officials. Santa Clara County is one of only California eight counties with an obligation to accept refugees, and two local agencies — the Jewish Family Services of Silicon Valley and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) — are solely responsible for resettlement.

Supervisor Otto Lee said there has been desperation among those fleeing Afghanistan, and that those fortunate enough to make it to America need to be supported. He pointed to the violence and chaos that has broken out in the country following the end of America's 20-year military presence.

"I am personally appalled by the lack of proper planning of this drawdown," Lee said. "Those who think we are now 'done' with Afghanistan are sorely misinformed. The work is far from over. For our county right here in Santa Clara County, our work has just begun."

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Palo Alto Online for as little as $5/month.

Join

Lee and Supervisor Susan Ellenberg spearheaded the effort to boost funding for refugee resettlement, arguing that the county needs a quick, well-funded response to those arriving in the county from Afghanistan. About 25 people landed in Santa Clara County in August, and 17 more are expected in the coming weeks.

"This is a rescue operation of significant magnitude, and increased funds are necessary for them to continue with this critical work to address a crisis for which the United States bears a measure of responsibility," Lee and Ellenberg wrote in their recommendation.

Refugees are currently arriving at Mineta San Jose International Airport with just two or three day's notice, said Mindy Berkowitz, executive director of Jewish Family Services, and it's going to be difficult to keep up. Her organization, along with the IRC, are expecting to go from resettling 55 refugees last year to more than 500 over the next 12 months. Each arrival needs to be connected with housing, food, doctors, schools and government assistance, she said, along with career counseling and job training to ensure they will become self-sufficient.

Berkowitz said the county has reduced its funding to Jewish Family Services over the last seven years, and right now it would be impossible to meet all of those needs. Housing stipends alone range from $1,000 to $2,500 per household, and can quickly eat through the organization's current budget. On top of that, she said many of those arriving are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and will need mental health counseling.

"The need for these services will grow as more people from Afghanistan arrive in Silicon Valley," she said.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox in our Express newsletter.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox in our Express newsletter.

Lee, an immigrant who served in Iraq, said the thousands of families who were in harm's way and fled Afghanistan last month are among those who supported Americans overseas during the war — including assisting in combat situations that helped save lives. He said the county owes it to them by supporting refugees the same way it would support returning service members.

Several faith-based groups backed the funding plan, which includes $130,000 in increased service contracts and $750,000 in one-time money. Diane Fisher, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, said the Jewish Family Services and the IRC are both shouldering a "tremendous burden," while Rabbi Faith Joy Dantowitz said the U.S. — a country of immigrants — ought to stand with refugees.

"This is a moral obligation for all of us, to welcome those who need a place and who need support," she said.

Supervisor Joe Simitian said he had previously worked with the IRC 20 years ago to support refugees arriving from Albania and Kosovo, and that it was clear to him that the county needs to step up with its own funding regardless of what state and federal resources may be available to pick up the tab.

"Having seen firsthand both abroad and here in our county the work of refugee relief and resettlement, I think the need for these services couldn't be clearer," Simitian said. "Each of us has a responsibility to do what we can."

A front row seat to local high school sports.

Check out our new newsletter, the Playbook.

Kevin Forestieri writes for the Mountain View Voice, a sister publication of PaloAltoOnline.com.

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Santa Clara County readies for surge of refugees following U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan

Local resettlement groups say they need more funding to support 500 refugees expected in the next year

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Wed, Sep 15, 2021, 2:48 pm
Updated: Thu, Sep 16, 2021, 2:15 pm

Santa Clara County is expecting a dramatic increase in refugees following the United States' withdrawal from Afghanistan, with nonprofits estimating that more than 500 people will need to be resettled over the next 12 months.

The incoming surge of refugees means hundreds of newly arriving families will need immediate access to everything from housing and food to English instruction and job training. Yet funding for these services is limited and has been curtailed in recent years. Santa Clara County's Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to beef up that funding, providing an extra $880,000 to assist in refugee resettlement.

More than 50,000 Afghan refugees are expected to enter the United States following the military withdrawal from Afghanistan on Aug. 30, according to Department of Homeland Security officials. Santa Clara County is one of only California eight counties with an obligation to accept refugees, and two local agencies — the Jewish Family Services of Silicon Valley and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) — are solely responsible for resettlement.

Supervisor Otto Lee said there has been desperation among those fleeing Afghanistan, and that those fortunate enough to make it to America need to be supported. He pointed to the violence and chaos that has broken out in the country following the end of America's 20-year military presence.

"I am personally appalled by the lack of proper planning of this drawdown," Lee said. "Those who think we are now 'done' with Afghanistan are sorely misinformed. The work is far from over. For our county right here in Santa Clara County, our work has just begun."

Lee and Supervisor Susan Ellenberg spearheaded the effort to boost funding for refugee resettlement, arguing that the county needs a quick, well-funded response to those arriving in the county from Afghanistan. About 25 people landed in Santa Clara County in August, and 17 more are expected in the coming weeks.

"This is a rescue operation of significant magnitude, and increased funds are necessary for them to continue with this critical work to address a crisis for which the United States bears a measure of responsibility," Lee and Ellenberg wrote in their recommendation.

Refugees are currently arriving at Mineta San Jose International Airport with just two or three day's notice, said Mindy Berkowitz, executive director of Jewish Family Services, and it's going to be difficult to keep up. Her organization, along with the IRC, are expecting to go from resettling 55 refugees last year to more than 500 over the next 12 months. Each arrival needs to be connected with housing, food, doctors, schools and government assistance, she said, along with career counseling and job training to ensure they will become self-sufficient.

Berkowitz said the county has reduced its funding to Jewish Family Services over the last seven years, and right now it would be impossible to meet all of those needs. Housing stipends alone range from $1,000 to $2,500 per household, and can quickly eat through the organization's current budget. On top of that, she said many of those arriving are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and will need mental health counseling.

"The need for these services will grow as more people from Afghanistan arrive in Silicon Valley," she said.

Lee, an immigrant who served in Iraq, said the thousands of families who were in harm's way and fled Afghanistan last month are among those who supported Americans overseas during the war — including assisting in combat situations that helped save lives. He said the county owes it to them by supporting refugees the same way it would support returning service members.

Several faith-based groups backed the funding plan, which includes $130,000 in increased service contracts and $750,000 in one-time money. Diane Fisher, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, said the Jewish Family Services and the IRC are both shouldering a "tremendous burden," while Rabbi Faith Joy Dantowitz said the U.S. — a country of immigrants — ought to stand with refugees.

"This is a moral obligation for all of us, to welcome those who need a place and who need support," she said.

Supervisor Joe Simitian said he had previously worked with the IRC 20 years ago to support refugees arriving from Albania and Kosovo, and that it was clear to him that the county needs to step up with its own funding regardless of what state and federal resources may be available to pick up the tab.

"Having seen firsthand both abroad and here in our county the work of refugee relief and resettlement, I think the need for these services couldn't be clearer," Simitian said. "Each of us has a responsibility to do what we can."

Read more: Aid for Afghanistan: How to help and where to donate … in the Bay & beyond

Kevin Forestieri writes for the Mountain View Voice, a sister publication of PaloAltoOnline.com.

Comments

Jennie Savage
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 16, 2021 at 1:26 pm
Jennie Savage, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 16, 2021 at 1:26 pm

As a big believer in the importance of local journalism, let me start by thanking you and your staff for covering salient issues for our community. That said, as a high school debate coach, I am convinced of the tremendous power of words and terms to shape our thoughts, beliefs and subsequent actions. If you're willing to reconsider the headline you chose "Santa Clara braces for surge of refugees," I'd appreciate it. We "brace" for hurricanes, for floods, for bad news. Perhaps it's more appropriate to say that we are "preparing" or "readying" to welcome new neighbors? Thank you in advance for considering the impact your words have on us and those who are joining our beloved country.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2021 at 1:46 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 16, 2021 at 1:46 pm

According to what Afghan's refer to as the Afghan brain drain, the people leaving the country are those that the Taliban would prefer to keep due to the fact that they have skills that are necessary for the country to operate. They are teachers, medical professionals, various technical workers, engineers, etc. In other words, these are people who have skills that can be used wherever they end up living. They are most likely to be bilingual and English speaking although to the amount of English would be variable.

I am pleased that there are offers to help them. However, I would imagine that they are going to become very independent fairly quickly. These refugees are not likely to be the perceived needy community that will be dependent on others for very long. They just need a start to find somewhere to live, somewhere to work and help navigating the red tape that enables them to adjust.


Jean Parker
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Sep 16, 2021 at 2:41 pm
Jean Parker, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Sep 16, 2021 at 2:41 pm

Semantics aside (bracing VS preparing), roughly how many Afghan refugees will be settling in Santa Clara County and in what city (or cities)?

Will their living expenses be subsidized by the county, state, federal governments and for how long?

And will the public schools, CA DMV, CA social services, and CA voter registrar now be required to provide ESL services?

Lastly, will the Afghani refugees be fully vetted by the Department of Homeland Security and FBI along with having been fully vaccinated and/or quarantined for Covid-19 and the Delta variant?

With its high residential costs and limited availabilitues, I imagine few Afghani refugees will be relocating to Palo Alto unless they are inherently wealthy.

Little Kabul in Fremont might be a better destination from the standpoint of shared language and culture/customs.


Anonymous
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 16, 2021 at 11:23 pm
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Sep 16, 2021 at 11:23 pm

I hope Santa Clara County will set up a mechanism whereby we can donate (securely) funds for the direct benefit of Afghan arrivals, as I would trust this and donate generously - as well as a way to donate items to a “wish list.”
Really, I would think in this huge, prosperous county there will be many of us willing to assist! It’s not likely they’ll move to Palo Alto owing to being built out and expensive.
I donated to an Afghan resettlement effort recently through UC Berkeley (they went over the amount requested), but I live in THIS county.
I am not of the faith group noted, find little online re: them, and so prefer to donate to something tangible such as: Santa Clara County for afghan relief/resettlement.
- Can they set up a temporary unit for this?
Maybe there should be a central warehouse in downtown San Jose or near County offices? Those who arrive could peruse various areas w categories of resources and donations.
It’s not all that easy to acquire furniture around here, if strict descriptions were given I believe many such items could be received as donations.
- Food, clothing, toys, books, maps, guides to the region!?
(This, in addition to the standard initial government reception of the Afghanis, of course.)
Hope there’s a way we in the general public can help, it’s the least we can do. I am appalled at Biden’s method of withdrawal from Afghanistan. I also hope immunizations are checked and administered as needed.


Anna Delacroix
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 17, 2021 at 8:32 am
Anna Delacroix, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Sep 17, 2021 at 8:32 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


AY
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on Sep 17, 2021 at 9:31 am
AY, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on Sep 17, 2021 at 9:31 am

We have a tremendous shortage of home health aid in bay area. After they settle down, we should encourage new immigrants to attend the training. It is a new bay area surviving skill and a way to contribute to the communities, too.


Anna Delacroix
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 17, 2021 at 11:54 am
Anna Delacroix, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Sep 17, 2021 at 11:54 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 17, 2021 at 8:08 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 17, 2021 at 8:08 pm

Afghanistan, sad story. Pay attention to what France is doing now. Recalling Ambassador from US and Australia. Foreign Affairs being ignored again. Pay attention. Pay Attention!


Anna Delacroix
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 18, 2021 at 8:33 am
Anna Delacroix, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Sep 18, 2021 at 8:33 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Phyllis Leaf
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Sep 20, 2021 at 11:18 am
Phyllis Leaf, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Sep 20, 2021 at 11:18 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 20, 2021 at 1:51 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Sep 20, 2021 at 1:51 pm

In the global picture for the Afghanasitan country the European countries have a long history of involvement - centuries. Many from the overall region live in GB and France and go to school there but they are dedicated to the Muslim culture. The US has a relativley short time period of involvement in that area. Based on the historical involvement in that region the bulk of the refugees should be going to the European countries where they already have established nighborhoods. Do not assume that the US is suppose to be the destination for refugees from countries in which the European countreis also have had a direct involvement with military and cultural support. The papers do not tell you where they all are going. It only prints a US POV which is relativley limited. We are the late comers in direct involvement in this area - the European countries have to do their part.


Anna Delacroix
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 20, 2021 at 2:17 pm
Anna Delacroix, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Sep 20, 2021 at 2:17 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 20, 2021 at 5:32 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Sep 20, 2021 at 5:32 pm

Pakistan has a large contingent of similiar population. Many centuries of transitioning in that region of tribal travels. That is the logical place for them to settle since they are aleady part of the population for centuries. Quit moving people out of their cultural base. They have family in those other countries, relatives, and go to school there. Their language is not a barrier in those locations. People need to end up where they will be most successful and have a cultural comfort of simiiarity.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.