Afghan refugees arrive in Maryland


Heather Feuerstein

Seniors Nadir Seman and Deep Kaur collect clothing donations for the Afghan Refugee Drive on Main Street.

Courtney Kim and Emily Pham

Amidst the recent events that stirred turmoil in Afghanistan, the US evacuated tens and thousands of people from the country.

Maryland had received 180 Afghan evacuees by Sept. 23, but more are likely to come as the White House reports that the state is approved to receive a total of 1,348 refugees in the coming weeks. 

Some Afghans are admitted through valid visas—either through a family member in the U.S. who sponsored them or through the Special Immigrant Visa program (SIV), intended for those who worked with the U.S. military during its two-decade war in Afghanistan. 

However, the vast majority is either just getting started on the visa application process or completely ineligible for an SIV, and are instead being let in temporarily through an immigration tool known as humanitarian parole.

While official refugees can receive federal assistance such as temporary housing, healthcare, and food stamps, those on parole are not guaranteed these services. This poses significant problems in the resettlement process as private agencies, instead of the government, are responsible for providing the homes and basic necessities for the Afghans. 

However, various organizations across the country along with independent student and adult volunteers are stepping up to help the refugees in a variety of ways. Locally, schools in Montgomery County have chipped in by providing relief in their own ways. 

From Nov. 8 to Nov. 12, the Richard Montgomery SGA held an Afghan Refugee Drive  to collect new or lightly used clothing and shoes. Hundreds of donation items were collected on Main Street during lunch, and will be distributed to families in need through Interfaith Works and the Montgomery County Muslim Foundation. 

Seniors Deep Kaur and Nadir Seman both worked at the table collecting and counting donations throughout the week.

I was so happy to see 134 items donated on the first day. It makes me proud to go to a school that can do something like that and I know that it’s even capable of more,” Seman said. We’re doing something to help people in need instead of just talking about it like most of the time.”

While RM does not house any Afghan refugee students yet, some MCPS students demonstrate other indirect ways to welcome refugees to the community. One example is Rohina Saeydie, a senior at Clarksburg High School, whose family recently evacuated from Afghanistan. For Rohina, the crisis is much more personal. 

“My family was there when the Taliban conquered Herat, they witnessed everything,” Saeydie said. Due to her heritage and her devotion to human rights, Saeydie actively engages in efforts to aid the refugee resettlement process. One looming issue is that those on parole can only live in the US for two years. In order to extend their stay, they must apply for a visa through a family member or apply for asylum. 

“Currently, I have been emailing immigration supervisors under Senator Van Hollen to aid my family members who have a pending visa application. Also, I have been in touch with people who work at Dulles International Airport to help refugees settle in and feel welcomed here.”

Along with contributing to relief efforts, many students show their support through warm words of encouragement and hopes for the future. Ameena Niamathullah, a senior at Clarksburg High School, said, “There are countless people here in our country that will fight alongside you, so don’t ever think you are alone.”