Compassion, education urged as state prepares for Afghan refugees

Mike Moen
Special to Devils Lake Daily Journal

FARGO. -- In the near future, North Dakota is poised to help resettle 49 Afghan evacuees who fled their home country after the U.S. military exit, and those assisting in the effort, along with human rights advocates, call on local leaders and residents to fully welcome the new immigrants.

A recent announcement came after North Dakota's resettlement office request for that number was approved by the U.S. State Department.

Dan Hannaher, field director of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said the response has been positive so far, especially from the business community willing to hire new arrivals.

"I heard from an employer saying, 'If you're receiving 49 Afghans, if 40 of them are employable, I'll take them all,'" Hannaher reported.

Most refugees are likely to be resettled in Fargo, and Hannaher said the area has enough affordable housing. Advocates asked the public to do its part to quell any hateful rhetoric that may arise, while offering a welcoming tone.

State officials say the individuals in the program go through a rigorous vetting process, and will be vaccinated against COVID.

Darci Asche, a board member of the New American Consortium for Wellness and Empowerment, which also will assist with resettlement, said the combination of compassion and services can help refugees establish roots and be contributors to the area.

She added in this situation, the trauma they experienced will be fresh in their minds as they were sent to the U.S. more quickly than usual to be vetted.

"Just being conscientious of that," Asche advised. "The services that we provided are culturally appropriate, that there's language ability, so that communication is done well."

Barry Nelson, community organizer for the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition, urged local leaders and community members to educate each other about the refugees and their needs.

He feels there is already misinformation floating around, and he noted Fargo's new hate-crime ordinance should be utilized if needed.

"Make sure that everything that needs to be done to eradicate it," Nelson stated. "To perhaps prosecute if needed, if it rises to that level would happen."

State officials pointed out the resettlement program is federally funded, and the effort does not impact social services currently available to North Dakotans in need.