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Groups Helping To Settle Afghan Refugees Have To Do More With Less Funding


Dozens of groups are working to help resettle Afghan refugees here in the United States. It is hard for many refugees to get here at all after the Trump administration slashed the number of refugees allowed into this country, which also affected the groups that try to help them. Carlos Moreno of member station KCUR in Kansas City reports.

CARLOS MORENO, BYLINE: The work of resettling Afghans here mostly falls on the shoulders of nonprofit, faith-based organizations designated by the State Department. There are about 200 such groups scattered across the U.S., and most are frantic.

RYAN HUDNALL: We are seeing that agencies are receiving notices and resettling people within 48 hours. So that puts a whole new level of pressure on the local affiliate.

MORENO: Ryan Hudnall heads Della Lamb community center, one of three designated resettlement agencies in the Kansas City area. In the past several months, Kansas City has resettled 25 Afghans. Groups are trying to ramp up to meet the new demand.

HUDNALL: There's going to be a gap of service and care. So it will be on the local community to navigate these issues to determine how to best respond to all the different issues that are going to emerge.

MORENO: Refugees who settle in the U.S. receive a stipend of $1,100 per person for three months, but so much more is needed to acclimate them and help them become self-sufficient because they have to pay back their travel costs to the U.S. government. Ryan Hudnall says the urgency of their situation is complicated by a housing shortage and several years of low immigration numbers.

HUDNALL: The past four years have not done us well to set us up for this situation given that the international infrastructure, as well as COVID-19. You have to add that complexity on top of it.

MORENO: Many of the immigrants who land here settle in a former Italian neighborhood, which is now a mix of immigrants from Somalia, Burma, Congo and Iraq. But the effort faces new challenges this time around.

JOANNA KRAUSE: Over the last four years, the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program was systematically dismantled. So it is just this year that we're now starting this rebuilding effort to have the capacity to receive all of the refugees who we would like to come.

MORENO: Joanna Krause heads Canopy of Northwest Arkansas, the only resettlement agency actively receiving new refugees in her state. With fewer refugees allowed, the funding all but dried up.

KRAUSE: Nationally, we lost so much in terms of institutional knowledge as the number of refugees who were able to travel to the U.S. was cut year by year.

MORENO: Krause says they were already preparing for an increase when President Biden raised the U.S. refugee immigration cap, but no one could plan for this surge. And as the exodus from Afghanistan continues, the challenge will likely be for agencies to find enough staff, volunteers and homes where refugees can begin the difficult job of resettling.

For NPR News, I'm Carlos Moreno in Kansas City.


Carlos Moreno