U.S. Air Force service members prepare to board evacuees from Afghanistan onto a C-17 Globemaster lll on Sunday at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. (Airman 1st Class Kylie Barrow/U.S. Air Force via AP)

U.S. Air Force service members prepare to board evacuees from Afghanistan onto a C-17 Globemaster lll on Sunday at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. (Airman 1st Class Kylie Barrow/U.S. Air Force via AP)

County expects 1,200 Afghans to settle here in coming months

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers called the effort to help them a “moral obligation.”

EVERETT — Snohomish County is expected to see about 1,200 Afghans resettle here in coming months after Taliban forces seized control of the country, county Executive Dave Somers said Tuesday.

Washington is one of the biggest hubs for Afghan resettlement. From October 2020 to July 2021, the state welcomed 348 immigrants from the country. Only a few states like California, Texas and Virginia received more. Over the past few years, Washington usually receives about 8% of the total U.S. arrivals from Afghanistan, said Sarah Peterson, chief of the state Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance.

Van Dinh-Kuno, executive director of Everett Community College-based Refugee and Immigrant Services Northwest, said her organization had resettled 22 Afghans in the past week. Many are settling in the Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace areas. And that’s only the beginning, she said.

“We are expecting many, many more to come,” Somers said at a Tuesday morning news conference.

All five members of the Snohomish County Council and Somers wrote in a statement Friday that the county “has a proud history of being a community that welcomes and supports refugees who resettle here, not only in pursuit of a better life for themselves and their families, but also as an opportunity to exercise their freedoms.” They called on residents to welcome Afghan arrivals with open arms.

Somers called helping a “moral obligation.”

Dinh-Kuno said her organization has seen an influx of volunteers and donations to assist in Afghan resettlement. She is also hiring Afghans to help, including a navigator who would work specifically with women to help schedule appointments, get kids enrolled in local schools, enroll them in English classes if necessary and open bank accounts.

She said the group, which has helped resettle immigrants for decades, has the capacity to help the expected 1,200 people coming to the county. Dinh-Kuno said, however, that with more and more families arriving, they will need more funding, volunteers and clothing donations.

The county is partnering with local groups like Refugee and Immigrant Services Northwest to address housing and other needs, Somers said.

“We are scrambling to put those support services in place, and we will do so,” Somers said.

Other resettlement agencies include Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services and the Catholic Diocese of Olympia.

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, said in a statement Tuesday that 230 Afghans had come to the state since Aug. 1. He called on President Joe Biden to extend the Aug. 31 withdrawal timeline for troops in Afghanistan to continue evacuation efforts.

“The U.S. must show its allies and partners it will continue to stand with them,” said Larsen, a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Herald writer Joseph Thompson contributed to this report.

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; jake.goldstein-street@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

How to help Afghan immigrants

Refugee and Immigrant Services Northwest is seeking volunteers to teach English and provide household needs to new arrivals. Volunteers for the Diocese of Olympia’s Refugee Resettlement Office can sign up to mentor kids and manage cases.

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