King County Council member Reagan Dunn recently introduced legislation to establish a scholarship program for Afghan immigrants settling in King County. The ordinance had its first reading at a county council meeting on October 26.
The initiative aims to provide educational and professional growth opportunities for performers who served alongside U.S. military personnel throughout the war in Afghanistan for at least a year.
The Dunn scholarship is a pilot program, which will run until December 2024 if adopted by King County Council. It is currently under review by the Government Accountability and Oversight Committee.
Dunn said Afghan interpreters arriving in King County either face the challenge of making a new home in an unknown country or face persecution at home for working with the US government.
“It is the right thing to do to provide them with workforce training and education as they rebuild their lives in America… which will help them become leaders in their communities and support others. who are relocating, ”Dunn said.
Obtaining a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV), the program that grants permanent residence to those who serve the U.S. government abroad, is a 14-step process that takes two to 10 years. Ahmad Abid, a representative of Afghan-American Cultural Association, an organization based in King County, said there are a myriad of challenges Afghan immigrants face in their efforts to obtain SIVs, often due to the inability to obtain a letter of recommendation.
Additionally, interpreters who have served the United States face unique challenges due to their proximity to military operations and diplomatic personnel.
“These interpreters are being blocked and hiding from the Taliban and other terrorists,” Ahmad said.
Athmar Al-Ghanim, a first year applying to study health informatics and health information management, said she believed performers were not getting what they were promised, despite the role vital that they played in US operations overseas.
“[They] are very important people in the communication between Afghanistan and the United States, ”Al-Ghanim said.
Al-Ghanim’s mother Zarby Kakar echoed these claims. As a translator and coordinator of refugee support at Immigrant Women’s Community Center, Kakar spoke about the importance of having accessible housing and educational opportunities upon arriving in the United States as an immigrant. Kakar left Afghanistan for the United States in 1985. A sense of belonging is extremely important for those relocating to an unfamiliar country.
“It’s crucial. It’s your lifeline, ”Kakar said. “It’s the only bond you will have with people who look like you, who look like you. “
Al-Ghanim said that as a UW student she has yet to meet anyone on campus who is connected to the Afghan community. Despite a massive influx of Afghans into King County in the weeks following the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan, significant steps still need to be taken by the UW, as a leading educational institution, and by King County.
There is a need to connect this newly resettled population with employment opportunities and even scholarship funded educational programs.
“Just as performers gave their lives in the service of the United States, [the] The United States must also keep this exact promise to them, ”Kakar said.
Contact contributing writer Taija PerryCook at [email protected] Twitter: @taijalyne
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