IN-DEPTH: Thousands of Afghan refugees in Texas concerned about loved ones in Middle East

Texas Afganrefugee.JPG
YE Top Photos 2021
Afgan Child.JPG
Posted at 1:03 PM, Jan 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-06 03:42:34-05

Since the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan in August, more than 75,000 Afghans have come to the U.S.

For those who now live here, they have a new fear. What's happening to family in their home country.

The World Health Organization warns a million kids could die this winter from starvation. That's more deaths than the 20-year war.

The country's economy was already struggling when the Taliban took over in mid-August after a chaotic withdrawal of the U.S.

Now with drought, international funding halted and the Taliban in control, some Afghans are in fear of what's next.

More than 4,400 Afghan refugees plan to resettle in Texas, according to the White House.

Most of the evacuees are people who received Special Immigrant Visas for their ties to the U.S military.

Concern for Loved Ones

A 29-year-old man who works as a translator tells the story of his father.

"He worked for the government. They found out about his travel. They killed him and they couldn't find the body for three months," said one refugee.

His mother and family still live in the U.S.

"She's a very nice lady," he speaks about his mother in tears. "She was both a mom and dad at the same time."

The youngest, his father was killed when his mother was eight months pregnant with him.

The 29-year-old wasn't going to leave, but his mother told him to go, saying that it was an opportunity for him.

He speaks to his mom daily. They share photos and videos of their life. The hope is she'll be able to come over with the rest of the family.

"It really makes me sad. There were poor people but not that much," he said.

A New Home with New Concerns

For weeks now, we have been visiting those who fled and now call Texas home. Because they worry about family members living back in Afghanistan, they've asked us to not share their names or reveal their identities.

Afgan Child.JPG
A child from Afghanistan watches his phone in a bedroom.

In a small two-bedroom Texas home, we are welcomed with hot tea. We meet a 17-year-old with his family. Not even alive on Sept. 11, 2001 when the U.S. was attacked, he still pays the price.

"I am worried about my fiance," the 17-year-old says.

He speaks better English than he lets on. A bit shy he explains that since the U.S. left his family is now in danger.

His concern now is finishing school and going to college. At the same time being in a new place with a different language is not easy. For the first several months, refugees spend their time looking for employment, getting children enrolled in school, and learning English.

Afghanistan Desperate Times Photo Gallery
An Afghan woman exits a convenience shop in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021. Since the chaotic Taliban takeover of Kabul on Aug. 15, an already war-devastated economy once kept alive by international donations alone is now on the verge of collapse. (AP Photo/ Petros Giannakouris)

Now that the U.S. is home, it's phone calls back to family members. Some admit there is guilt knowing what's happening in the Middle East country.

It was in a supermarket that we first met the family, the kids in traditional clothing. One of the kids tells me "Market" over and over.

I'm happy I can take a walk down the street with no explosions

American Culture VS. Afghanistan

Walking in a park with a group from Afghanistan, especially the younger generation, they speak about how they love American culture.

Afghanistan Desperate Times Photo Gallery
A boy carries bread in Herat, Afghanistan, Thursday , Nov. 25, 2021. Since the chaotic Taliban takeover of Kabul on Aug. 15, an already war-devastated economy once kept alive by international donations alone is now on the verge of collapse. The World Health Organization is warning of millions of children suffering malnutrition, and the U.N. says 97% of Afghans will soon be living below the poverty line. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Movies like Titanic and Home Alone are popular. Plus being near Americans in their country gave them a different outlook.

"I never thought I would be living in the United States," one said.

One Saturday afternoon a meal is made for me. I'm told in Afghanistan they share plates and you don't talk while eating.

Rice and chicken, a bit spicy. One of the gentleman takes a bite of a jalapeno pepper.

Face red, some tears and laughter, these are the moments of a new start.

Several gentlemen ask how they can get a job. One said he served next to the U.S. since the start of the war.

They all speak about how they enjoy the U.S. and hope to share their culture.

Who's to Blame?

"They all know the economic consequences of this is going to be catastrophic," said Andrew S. Natsios, an executive professor at the Bush School of Government & Public Service at Texas A&M University.

Natsios worked under both Bush administrations. He disagrees with how the Biden administration handled pulling troops out.

I think the Biden administration made a catastrophic, disastrous decision to withdraw from the country.
Andrew Natsios

The Biden administration has been defensive about the criticism surrounding how the U.S. exited.

I don't think it could have been handled in a way that, we're gonna go back in hindsight and look -- but the idea that somehow, there's a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don't know how that happens. I don't know how that happened.

President Biden

Facing pressure, the Whitehouse in December took steps to allow more aid. But groups like the International Rescue Committee say they need more.

“We need a bigger humanitarian response, but without a functioning economy and banking system, we are facing terrible odds,” David Miliband, president and chief executive of the International Rescue Committee, wrote on Twitter. “Need massive economic stabilization package to stop the rip current.”

For those who now call the U.S. home, it's a struggle to see their country suffer.

How You Can Help

International Rescue Committee
This organization has been helping on the ground in Afghanistan for three decades. Current donations are going towards meeting immediate needs including health care and emergency training.

United Nations Refugee Agency
Conflict in Afghanistan has already driven half a million people from their homes since the start of the year. Donations to this UN organization go directly towards helping displaced peoples and purchasing emergency food and shelter supplies.

This Afghanistan-focused NGO is based in the UK and using funds to buy emergency food and shelter supplies.

This Afghan startup is providing civilians with live security updates and using donations to scale up its technology.

This organization allows you to donate your unused airline miles to sponsor flights to safety for refugees.

Women for Afghan Women
This organization is the largest women’s group in the country and is focusing on getting resources specific to women and girls at risk. They provide evacuation shelters, food, medical supplies, and critical informational updates.

Afghan Journalists Safety Committee
This organization is protecting journalists on the ground in Afghanistan to ensure the continuation of accurate and timely news about the developing situation. They provide safety for journalists with safe houses, supplies, and the support of independent news outlets.

Volunteer Opportunity 

The State Department announced the expansion of refugee criteria for Afghans meaning an increase in refugee arrivals. The Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service are looking for volunteers to support Afghan refugees arriving in US cities with supplies, meals, and transportation.