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JERSEY CITY — Recently, Sayed Qasemi and Najila Razawi’s days have been consumed by worry.

They’ve been thinking about their families in Afghanistan constantly, secure but distant in Jersey City as the Taliban takeover following the U.S. exit from a 20-year war unfolds.

Alain Mentha, founder of Welcome Home Jersey City, a local organization that supports refugees, has also been thinking about Afghanistan. He’s been constantly working during a planned vacation, awaiting the imminent arrival of a family fleeing the conflict who will be the first his organization hosts in a newly leased apartment.

“Our number one goal is to make them feel safe and comfortable,” he said.

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan has not only caused fear and panic there, but has had a ripple effect to communities here, such as Jersey City, where Afghans like Qasemi who once worked with the U.S. military have resettled.

Since getting a special immigrant visa in 2017, he and his wife have found peace in New Jersey, no longer having to wonder whether he’ll safely return home at night after receiving threatening letters from the Taliban.

But now, he and his wife yearn to bring the rest of their extended families here as well.

“They are in a very bad situation,” Razawi said in Dari, her native language. “They are very afraid, and I also have great anxiety.”

Qasemi is one of thousands of Afghans the U.S. gave special immigrant visas to after their collaboration with the U.S. military put them at high risk.

Some families have newly arrived with the visas, and Mentha expects that any day now, one will be coming to New Jersey and will be directed his way for temporary housing.

Up until now, his organization had provided resources for families to secure housing and settle down, but had never had a space of its own to offer.

In the last month, however, Welcome Home signed a lease for a three-bedroom apartment and has quickly furnished it in preparation for an Afghan family.

The International Rescue Committee’s Elizabeth office helps procure more permanent housing for families, but Welcome Home’s Jersey City apartment will be an immediate place for one family to go in the meantime, Mentha said.

“I can’t stay off of my phone since things are moving so quickly, but I’m glad that things are coming together … and that we’re going to be able to provide safety for people who have worked very closely with the United States; with the armed forces, but also with media organizations with human rights groups,” he said.

Welcome Home has worked with Qasemi and Razawi for years.

The couple came to the U.S. with their young son after Qasemi received threatening letters and was slashed with a knife. He had been monitoring the whereabouts of U.S. vehicles in Afghanistan for the U.S. military since 2012.

In New Jersey, Welcome Home has helped them with rental payments, bought Qasemi an e-bike for his commute to a warehouse, and now, is planning to help their son Abbas enroll in kindergarten. It has also helped foster a local network for the family, since it also supports three other Afghan families in Hudson County, Mentha said.

But the answer to Qasemi and Razawi’s most recent dream — getting their families out of Afghanistan — remains muddled, Qasemi and Mentha said. The special immigrant visa he received in 2017 could only be extended to a spouse and children.

“I’m worried about my family over there,” Razawi said. “I’m in a state of anxiety, and I don’t know what to do.”

(Excerpt) Read more Here | 2021-08-18 15:24:21

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