Illinois is preparing for hundreds of Afghan refugees to arrive in the coming weeks.
Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth visited with the Heartland Alliance Friday, an organization that so far has helped 35 individuals relocate and get settled in the area.
“I can’t even comprehend the fear and worry of having to rip children away from the only homes they’ve known in favor of a far away nation in order to get to safety, to a nation whose language I don’t speak,” Duckworth said.
On Thursday more than 100 Afghan evacuees arrived at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, assisted by another organization.
Heartland Alliance is working with the groups RefugeeOne, Catholic Charities and World Relief in the relocation effort, but they need help.
Lea Tienou-Gustafson is director of Heartland Human Care Services
“In this current situation with people fleeing from Afghanistan,” we believe it is our responsibility to step up and welcome these people with open arms,” she said. “Financial support is paramount. We need housing and landlord partners willing to rent to new arrivals. Folks who can speak Pashto and Dari.”
“We’re looking for anything from attorneys to help fill out immigration paperwork, mental health doctors to volunteer some time, cribs, car seats, furniture,” Duckworth said.
Duckworth said she is also working to help Americans still stuck in Afghanistan.
She expects 800 evacuees to arrive in Illinois over the next few months and 80,000 total across the U.S. by mid-October.
“This is an opportunity to show who we are as a nation, city and state,” she said. “Let’s make sure we welcome these new Americans the way they helped us and our troops when we were in harm’s way in Afghanistan.”
Heartland Alliance is preparing to help 200-300 Afghans in the coming months.
Duckworth said she is pushing for more funding for agencies like these in the U.S. Senate.