August 15, 2023

Press Release: Second Anniversary of the Fall of Kabul:
Afghan Refugees successfully integrate in Los Angeles, but challenges remain

“Dad called me and said: they are already at the gate… I had to run away through the back exit of the Parliament building. I was at the airport and saw everything… We had one bottle of water for five people… I saw dead bodies… I saw how families were separated… And now I do my best every day to help those who managed to leave, and those whose families were separated.” Najeebullah Mehrabi, Afghan refugee and a caseworker at International Institute of Los Angeles.

This week marks two years since the fall of Kabul to Taliban forces and the evacuation of 120,000 people from Afghanistan. International Institute of Los Angeles (IILA) has been working with partners at the local, state and federal levels to receive and resettle more than 1000 Afghan individuals, including humanitarian parolees, Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders, and refugees, since they began arriving in the Los Angeles area in October 2021. IILA staff and volunteers have ensured that all new Afghan arrivals have received housing, employment, medical, legal and financial assistance, as well as extended case management services.  

One of the most critical needs for the new arrivals remains legal assistance, since there is still no clear path to permanent residency for many of Afghan arrivals.  IILA’s Afghan Legal Representation Project began in May 2022 and has submitted 160 applications for asylum representing almost 400 individuals.  Asylum approvals have been slow but in the last few weeks there has been an uptick in approvals. “Recently, we started receiving a lot of positive news – our clients’ cases are getting approved. There are some people who came to this country 6-7 years ago and filed an asylum application and they still haven’t gotten a scheduled interview. I’m always over the moon when I hear of another approval”, said Cynthia Hernandez, Director of IILA’s Afghan Legal Representation Project.

IILA caseworkers, who are in regular contact with Afghan clients, note significant positive changes over the past 2 years. Many Afghans have found stable employment and housing and are getting used to their new environment. However, the case workers also see the problems that Afghan arrivals still face. “Afghan families, who have been here for 1-2 years, face several challenges: affordable rents, struggles with language barrier, adapting to a new culture and way of life, continued difficulty in finding suitable employment, and navigating the challenges of raising children in a new environment,” shared Sahil Sarwari, one of IILA’s case workers.

Najeebullah Mehrabi, with the help of IILA, has already received his asylum approval and will soon be a permanent resident of the USA. Now he helps other families to obtain asylum so they can become permanent residents.  “You will not believe how hard we work for all refugees. It is not easy when you are far from your family, from your wife, children, but still you are trying to save other families. It is a great honor to work with IILA and support other Afghan refugees,” he says.

Najeebullah helps Afghan refugees to establish their future here and has a special passion helping with the reunification of separated families. “They’re not only responsible for building their own lives here in the United States, but they are also responsible for their families who need support in Afghanistan. There is no education, there is no medication, there is no work, no security… How can anyone feel relaxed when your family is in Afghanistan? I mean mentally, we’re every day thinking about what’s going to happen and how hard we should work to help our family.”

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International Institute of Los Angeles (IILA) is a nonprofit founded in 1914 to help newly arrived immigrants in Los Angeles. IILA’s mission is to provide skills, abilities, and resources to help families become self-sufficient and to promote cross-cultural understanding. IILA employs over 150 staff that provide childcare, legal aid, employment assistance, transportation, nutrition, case management and other services to refugees, immigrants, survivors of human trafficking, unaccompanied and undocumented minors, and low-income working families. For more information, visit www.iilosangeles.org.

 

Media Contact:

Cambria Tortorelli, President & CEO
(661) 349-1065
[email protected]