With open arms, Oklahomans ought to welcome the nearly 2,000 Afghan refugees expected in the next few months.
Ignore the hate and xenophobia coming from Republican Party Chairman John Bennett and some lawmakers. That’s not the Oklahoma Standard.
These immigrants are American allies. Many aided and worked with our troops, putting themselves and their families in danger. Others may be escaping persecution for their Christian faith or for their advocacy for equality and democracy.
Catholic Charities is the official refugee resettlement agency in the state. Last week, it said about 800 Afghan refugees are expected in Tulsa and about 1,000 will arrive in Oklahoma City. The number could go higher.
By the time of arrival, they have gone through several stages of vetting and been at different holding spaces in the immigration process. Those include stops in military bases with multiple security background checks and medical exams.
Ending the war in Afghanistan has caused a diaspora of its citizens.
The United Nations stated in August that half a million immigrants could flee by the year’s end. That is on top of the 2.2 million Afghans already living in neighboring countries.
The U.S. plays a role in taking care of these refugees. Some are using the Special Immigrant Visa Program. This was created by Congress in 2008 to allow Iraqi and Afghan nationals targeted for working with Americans to safely relocate to the U.S.
Because the U.S. doesn’t have a program for some situations in Afghanistan, it uses the term “humanitarian parolee” in referring to someone able to remain in this country without a visa. But it doesn’t give immigration status or public benefits such as food or housing.
That means many are making their way across the globe with nothing. Catholic Charities said the Oklahoma refugees will get a one-time payment of $1,225.
That is generous but won’t go far.
It’s time to bury the ugly part of the post-9/11 era that spawned hate crimes against people who are of Middle Eastern descent or who practice the Muslim faith.
Tulsa has a reputation for being a national leader in philanthropy. Oklahoma prides itself on its hospitality to strangers in crisis.
Some Afghan immigrants and families have been waiting years to get this chance. They are leaving a war-torn and poverty-stricken country for the American ideals we introduced to their country.
Let’s show the best of our city and state. Let’s show off the Oklahoma Standard.