Afghan refugees struggle to adjust to life in the US | Refugees News

San Jose, California, United States – Zainab, an adolescent from Afghanistan who has lived in a cramped California motel room along with her household for almost a yr, nonetheless has scars on her wrist from the shattered glass of a suicide bombing.

She and her sister, Zahra, are attempting to shortly study English to allow them to discover work and assist their household cowl the sky-high price of hire in San Jose.

“I’ve no alternative however to assist my household,” Zahra mentioned by means of a translator contained in the household’s price range motel room, crammed with the aroma of cooked rice and strewn with stuffed animals and English grammar textbooks. The household spoke with Al Jazeera on the situation that their final identify could be withheld.

Zahra’s 21-year-old brother, who the Taliban beat as he tried to enter the Kabul airport, stays trapped in Afghanistan.

“I’ve been crying for a yr,” mentioned their mom, Amina. “What is going to occur to my son? Will the Taliban kill him? I simply need my son again.”

For Afghan households who’ve been resettled in the US for the reason that administration of President Joe Biden pulled navy forces from Afghanistan final August, it has not been straightforward adjusting to life in a brand new nation. The duties pile up: looking for work, learning English, researching long-term immigration pathways, memorising native bus routes.

For a lot of households, these difficulties are compounded by trauma from years of battle, together with anxieties over family members nonetheless in Afghanistan. However the prospects for reunion are daunting: In response to US Citizenship and Immigration Providers, of almost 50,000 Afghans who’ve utilized for humanitarian parole since July 2021, 369 have been accepted and about 8,000 rejected, with the remainder nonetheless awaiting a response as of July 28.

Walid Aziz, an Afghan who resettled within the US a number of years in the past, just lately obtained information that his father’s utility was denied. “I’ve very excessive nervousness; my household is at risk,” Aziz, who labored as a contractor for the US Embassy in Kabul, advised Al Jazeera. “I served the US authorities. I don’t know why my father is just not right here.”

‘One disaster after one other’

Regardless of their ongoing trauma, Afghan households who’ve relocated to the US have little alternative however to press ahead with the lengthy listing of challenges that include resettlement.

Sensible considerations, comparable to transportation and communication, could make on a regular basis duties difficult and irritating – particularly those who contain navigating US forms, comparable to signing up for healthcare. In California’s Bay Space, the place jobs that pay sufficient to fulfill the astronomical prices of dwelling are arduous to return by, many fear about their capacity to make ends meet.

“A variety of households are nonetheless in non permanent housing, as a result of hire is so costly,” Zuhal Bahaduri, who assists households by means of the group organisation 5ive Pillars, advised Al Jazeera. “It’s one disaster after one other for these households. Leaving Afghanistan was solely half the battle.”

On the similar motel the place Zahra’s household is staying, Saliha, who spoke provided that her final identify be withheld, says she has not seen her husband of greater than 40 years for almost a yr. He was injured within the chaos on the Kabul airport and couldn’t make it by means of the gang.

She has now lived on this motel for seven months along with her daughter and son-in-law, questioning what the long run holds. “I simply need to reunite with my husband. He’s my every part,” she advised Al Jazeera. “I want he was right here with me, so we might construct a greater life collectively.”

Afghan Family stands in shadow at California hotel
Zarghon stands with some members of her household in a motel in San Jose, California in August. Afghans who resettled within the US after the US withdrawal have struggled with myriad obstacles [Brian Osgood/Al Jazeera]

In a room down the corridor, Zarghon holds her six-year-old stepdaughter, Marwa, wearing a butterfly T-shirt and pants with pink-and-white flowers. Marwa’s father remains to be trapped in Afghanistan.

“Her first day of faculty was very troublesome, as a result of when her mother dropped her off, she turned scared she wouldn’t come again,” Zarghon advised Al Jazeera, talking provided that her final identify be withheld. “However her classmates have been very good, and her academics have helped her get new garments. She likes to attract photos of her father.”

Though some kin are nonetheless dwelling on the motel, Zarghon and 5 members of her household have been finally in a position to transfer right into a three-bedroom residence that prices about $3,300 a month. They at the moment obtain rental help, and are incrementally paying bigger parts earlier than the total price kicks in after six months. They’re glad to have a spot to dwell, however fear about discovering jobs to cowl hire as soon as the help lapses.

Asifa – who escaped Kabul on the identical day {that a} suicide bomber killed about 170 Afghans and greater than a dozen US service members outdoors the town’s airport, and who additionally requested that her final identify be withheld – can be nervous. She obtained a housing provide for her husband and two of her kids, however turned it down as a result of she didn’t need to depart her daughter-in-law alone within the motel.

“She was very eloquent, however after the Taliban took over she stopped talking for a number of months,” Asifa advised Al Jazeera. “Typically she has fainting assaults a number of occasions per week.”

Overburdened system

A community of resettlement teams and group organisations are serving to these households, however they’re stretched to their limits, making an attempt to fill gaps after sources for refugees have been hollowed out throughout the administration of former US President Donald Trump. 5ive Pillars, which provides help to lots of the households on the lodge, was based within the aftermath of the autumn of Kabul.

Many group organisations and Afghan American volunteers, who assist with every part from meals to authorized help, are feeling strained and burned out – not solely from the overwhelming calls for, but in addition from the emotional nature of the work.

A few of these volunteers have their very own painful household histories, which they’re now seeing repeated among the many latest spherical of refugees from a rustic that has been devastated by warfare and hardship for many years.

Arash Azizzada, co-founder of the progressive diaspora group Afghans For A Higher Tomorrow, advised Al Jazeera that state and federal governments have left “Afghan group organisations to choose up the items, most of that are underfunded, under-resourced, and on the verge of burnout”.

On the similar time, many resettled Afghans are keenly conscious that underneath humanitarian parole, which permits them solely non permanent refuge, they need to get onto a extra steady immigration pathway inside two years of coming into the nation, or danger dropping the work authorisation advantages that include parole.

“We’re making an attempt to position individuals in good-paying jobs, but when they don’t have extra everlasting authorized standing, every part is unsure,” Yalda Afif, programme supervisor for the refugee help organisation HIAS, advised Al Jazeera.

With loads of obstacles forward, some households nonetheless maintain out hope that they are going to finally have the ability to construct a greater life within the US.

“We’re grateful to be someplace safe,” Asifa mentioned. “However on the similar time, our hearts are damaged.”

Farrah Omar assisted with translation for this story. She is a contract media interpreter primarily based in California and speaks Farsi and Dari.