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Sacramento Braces for Wave of Traumatized Afghani Refugees

Immigration Attorney: Biden’s disastrous pullout has cleaved families

By Christine Flowers, September 13, 2021 10:02 am

Men in Afghanistan, Sept. 2, 2005. (Photo: Sita Magnuson)

There are more Afghans in Sacramento County — 9700 according to the US Census—than in any other county in America. Add to that another 2,000 in Yolo, Sutter, Placer and El Dorado counties and one can see why northern California has become the federal government’s go-to destination for settling Afghani refugees desperately fleeing the chaos of Taliban 2.0.

Until quite recently, I knew very little about Afghanistan, which is ironic because I already know a great deal about the Taliban. Over the past two and a half decades I’ve practiced immigration law and my practice is increasingly centered around asylum cases. Many of those cases happen to involve victims of the Taliban, albeit the Pakistani version.

However, there is very little difference between the groups. They carry  in their DNA a similar Pashtun heritage, a hostility toward western culture, a desire to erase women and a passion for violence. So while I was not familiar with Afghanistan beyond what I culled from reading Khaled Hosseini’s magnificent book The Kite Runner, I was very familiar with the pain of its people.

Children in Afghanistan, Sept. 2, 2005. (Photo: Sita Magnuson)

That pain has now become a reality for me. It is a pain by proxy since I’ve never visited the country nor have I suffered under the yolk of oppression, but I’ve made it my own over the last several weeks. When the US initiated its ill-planned, chaotic and hasty withdrawal from the country, the collateral consequences immediately became clear: we had created a new humanitarian crisis, layered over the ones that had existed for at least two generations.

Men and women who had assisted the US military during its long occupation of Afghanistan and who were in varying stages of applying for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) were thrown into an administrative maelstrom when it became obvious that the troops would be gone before the visas could be approved.  That layer of protection, that sense of security that they felt in knowing that the Taliban was not breathing down their collective necks collapsed. The fear that so many had lived with increased exponentially with each Taliban advance, each takeover of a region, each victory against the fragile but established government.

And the fear was not just limited to those still in Afghanistan, which is where I became involved. When Kabul fell and the consulate closed, a number of immigration attorneys nationwide jumped into action to try and find ways that the family members of Afghans who were already living in the US could flee the chaos. Meeting with panicked brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers and in rare cases children, we took down as much information as we could and filled out requests for humanitarian parole requests, not knowing how quickly they’d be processed or if there was even a way for the applicants to escape a country with no functioning airport.

Biden launches a deadly diversion

To experience up close the pain and panic of a father who had left his only son behind to care for aging grandparents, only to realize that this son was now the target of Taliban snipers, was devastating.  We’ve been texting and in contact almost every day for the last three weeks. His last text to me at 1 am in the morning was a brief expression of gratitude for my “friendship.” That ability to extend thanks to someone at a time when his own world was falling apart brought tears to my eyes.

This story is being retold over and over again, among immigration attorneys, advocates and most especially private citizens who have banded together to create a 21st century underground railroad to evacuate Afghan allies, US green card holders and US citizens of Afghan descent, all of whom have been trapped in a hell that they did not create. When I guest-hosted a radio program last week I had the honor of interviewing one of those private citizens, retired Marine Lt.Colonel Jonathon Myers, who has been working with two other retired officers to bring people to the US and have come up against significant obstacles. Most of those obstacles were presented by our own government.

And this is the source of my anger. We can disagree on the merits of ending the 20-year presence in Afghanistan. I happen to believe that it was important for us to remain, but I respect those who don’t share that viewpoint. What no one can deny is that the execution of the withdrawal was worse than anyone could have imagined in their wildest dreams. But you didn’t even need dreams.

Many of President Biden’s advisers warned him against setting a date certain for withdrawal, and told him that the Taliban were likely to take the country before the last troops were out of Afghanistan. He rejected their counsel, to the point of publicly expressing confidence that the we would not see the terrorist group taking Kabul.

This hubris, this desire for the sound bite that we had “ended the forever war” on the eve of the 20th anniversary of 9/11, caused the chaos, the pain and the avoidable bloodshed. The Afghans both here and abroad see that. Our allies see that. And then Biden compounded the error with a tragic drone strike that killed 10 Afghanis, including 7 children. There now appears to have been no legitimate military value to the target and our top advisors were accused—not by right-wing conspiracists, but by the sainted Washington Post and New York Times on their front pages—of obliterating a family simply to create a diversion and look tough after 13 Americans were killed by Isis.

These are the events that the people who will soon land in Sacramento recently witnessed. And I see that, as I try and help pick up the pieces from thousands of miles away.

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Christine Flowers
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7 thoughts on “Sacramento Braces for Wave of Traumatized Afghani Refugees

  1. All very touching, complete with photos of cute kids. (Hey, they look just like yours, only with funny clothes and haircuts!)

    But will they assimilate? Will they be expected to?

    And if not, what can we expect instead?


    Call me dubious, with a big side of compassion overload.

    Just a thought.


    P.S. The author of this op-ed giltatribe – neologism time Folks! – is based in Philadelphia. Meaning she won’t have to live with the consequences of her “humanitarian” – albeit compensated – efforts. Though to be fair, she probably deals with “diversity” of a different sort on a daily basis.

  2. “However, there is very little difference between the groups. They carry in their DNA a similar Pashtun heritage, a hostility toward western culture, a desire to erase women and a passion for violence.”
    Thank you CB for the bigoted article.

  3. I am a Social Worker in CA and we are still dealing with the thousands of refugees from the Vietnam war who were resettled in CA! Many did not and do not want to assimilate and it has costs CA taxpayers millions! Many were given blanket SSI because they could not speak English, translators for various social welfare services, housing, TANF, food stamps, free education that involved the use of translators and/or IEP’s which are also costly to taxpayers, healthcare etc…. They also have figured out how to get free help from relatives through the IHSS program and we are paying for all of it! When I worked in CalWorks program in 1998 the poor case managers who were also from that same culture had the highest caseloads and were so frustrated because they couldn’t get their clients to work! We now have vicious Hmong gangs who prey on those that gave them refugee as well as their own! CA has thousands of homeless drug addicts with mental health issues living on our streets, thousands of illegals all getting these same services and our system is overwhelmed and broken! I am not against helping people but the reality is that CA needs to serve its legal homegrown citizens before anyone else right now and I wish these politicians and immigration attorneys would wake up as many do not live or work in this mess daily!!

    1. I find your rant really stupid and completely false. This is 2021 and the Vietnam war has been over for more than 40 years. There are no Vietnam war refugees anymore! The majority of Vietnamese refugees that did came in the 70′ and 80’s have astonishingly got out of poverty in one to two generations without even knowing any English and assimilated very well. Unfortunately, because of their success, they are ironically labeled a model minority. You seem like an angry social worker who should retire or just quit. We don’t need your lies and your rant is filled with racist undertone to the point that it makes people wondered about your intellect.

  4. We don’t win wars anymore, we just bring home the flotsam from failed nation building that has no interest in assimilating, living in a democratic society, learning the language, respecting civilized culture. The southern border and refugees, this has all been engineered by the political class to change America…. and elections.

    1. You’re right. So refugees come before the thousands of homeless Americans who live on the streets? Wake up government! Why don’t their fellow Islamic nations take them in? They have some of the richest rulers in the world.

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