He was joined in the airport’s ‘Welcome Center’, a dedicated space where newly arrived Afghans are greeted by local support organizations, representatives from the Port of Seattle, Microsoft, Airbnb, d ‘Amazon and the Puget Sound Muslim Association.
Afterwards, the governor joined members of the Afghan community in Washington for a discussion, where he heard about their local community and family members still in Afghanistan.
“I recognize the incredibly difficult situation facing everyone involved, whether they are our Afghan neighbors and friends, our veterans who have served alongside them, or our federal, state and local partners. I am nonetheless deeply inspired by the collective effort to provide safety and opportunity for evacuees, and I look forward to seeing these new Washingtonians flourish, ”Inslee said.
Resettling so many people in a short period of time is difficult and requires coordination between federal departments, refugee resettlement agencies, state and local authorities, community organizations and private donors. With more than 60,000 Afghans arriving nationwide, the federal government is seeking to resettle more than a year of refugees in three months.
Washington has already received 1,105 refugees and special immigrant visa holders in federal fiscal year 2021. An additional 1,679 Afghans are expected this winter. Much of the work falls on refugee resettlement agencies, who are already affected by the pandemic, reduced capacity caused by the previous federal administration, and barriers to hiring.
In response, the Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance, which is hosted by the State Department of Health and Social Services, has partnered closely with the Puget Sound Muslim Association to investigate and act quickly when urgent problems arise.
“Our office has a long history of partnering with refugee resettlement agencies and other community organizations to provide support services to refugees and immigrants to rebuild their lives in our local communities. We will build on our existing relationships and work to strengthen them as we elevate and elevate the work of our Afghan-American lead organizations to welcome our new neighbors, ”said Sarah Peterson, Washington State Coordinator for the United Nations. refugees.
Also on Friday, the governor wrote a letter to Jack Markell, White House coordinator for “Operation Allies Welcome.” Inslee thanked the Federal Administration for its continued work in evacuating the Afghans and finding them homes in the United States. He also urged the administration to defend permanent status for all those who are granted temporary status in the United States.
In keeping with his deep concern for the well-being of all immigrants to Washington, Governor Inslee issued a separate letter on Friday. The letter responds to the Department of Homeland Security’s request for comment on the public charge rule. The previous federal administration sought to promote a disturbing version of a rarely used standard that prevents immigrants, who can access public benefits, from obtaining permanent residence. This threatening proposition caused fear to spill over into immigrant communities, a fear that complicated Washington’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The governor was joined by Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Pam McEwan, Managing Director of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange; and Sarah Peterson, Washington State Refugee Coordinator, all of whom sent letters advocating on behalf of immigrant communities. Their letters can be found here, here and here.