SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Sacramento Congressman Ami Bera and others are asking the community to continue to be welcoming as the number of Afghan refugees climbs and stretches local resources.
For the last 15 months, business has been good for Mohib Momand and his shop off Watt Avenue. Three years ago, at home in Afghanistan, Momand played a significant role for the U.S.
“I supported the U.S. I have supported the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. So, I worked on behalf of the U.S. government,” he said.
Momand said seeing what the Taliban has done to his home country is traumatizing and he worries about what will happen to his nine sisters and four brothers who are still in Afghanistan.
“It is very difficult because I think we will not be able to see, visit our family again,” Momand said.
“Sacramento County and our region has the largest number of Afghan refugees in the United States,” Rep. Bera said.
Bera and Sacramento County leaders are working together to help more families like Momand’s come to the U.S. for asylum. Bera said there’s a reason why Sacramento is considered a longtime welcoming place for refugees.
“You can go back to the Hmong and Mien population from the Vietnam War, the Vietnamese population, the Iraqi refugees, Syrian refugees, and now, the Afghan refugees,” Bera explained. “It’s what makes Sacramento such a diverse community.”
But with thousands of people evacuated due to wildfires, COVID-19 and the ongoing housing crisis in California, placement for the influx of Afghan refugees coming to Sacramento is becoming a challenge for local resettlement agencies.
“Sacramento has been the number one destination, what is new the volume,” said Kerry Ham the director of World Relief Sacramento.
Ham said his organization has received more refugees in one month than in the past eight months, and because of the influx, the U.S. State Department is now restricting Afghans and Iraqis resettlement in the Sacramento area.
“Due to a critical shortage of housing availability, both temporary and permanent, only those with the following relationships to the principal applicant (PA) or the PA’s will be allowed to receive R&P benefits in the Sacramento area: spouse, parent, child, and sibling,” the State Department wrote on its Travel.State.Gov site.
“We are looking, we are working with government officials. We are working with private individuals for long-term housing solutions, landlords and anyone who has vacant units that are willing to rent out to new arrivals,” Ham told FOX40. “Those are some of the things that we need right now.”
Like Ham, Bera and other refugee advocates are asking for more assistance from the federal government and the local community.
In the meantime, people like Momand say they will continue to welcome refugees and make them feel at home.
“This is an Afghan store, 90% of our customers are Afghans,” Momand said. “It’s safe. We are safe.”