Aug. 24, 2021 By Allie Griffin
More than 40 state legislators — including a half dozen from Queens — are calling on President Joseph Biden to welcome Afghan refugees into the country and to set them up in New York.
Queens Assembly Member Catalina Cruz and State Sen. Andrew Gounardes of South Brooklyn penned a letter to Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging them to accept refugees from Afghanistan.
Cruz and Gournades said New York is ready, willing and able to welcome the refugees into the state once they make it into the U.S.
“While the situation in Afghanistan unfolds, we write to you as elected officials from New York State saying we will welcome asylum seekers and refugees from Afghanistan and stand ready to support them when they are here,” they wrote in a letter dated Aug. 19.
The letter was signed by nearly 40 other state legislators — including an additional five from Queens.
Queens Assembly Members Brian Barnwell and Jessica Gonzáles-Rojas signed on — along with Senators Michael Gianaris, John Liu and Jessica Ramos.
The officials said New York has the infrastructure to help Afghan asylum seekers.
“Our state is among the best equipped to take in and support these families,” the officials said.
They said there are several organizations in New York that could help Afghan refugees settle in the state. In addition, they note, there is the New York State Enhanced Services to Refugees Program (NYSESRP), a state-run program that assists newly-arrived refugees.
The program was created in 2017 in response to the Trump administration’s withdrawal from similar federal programs.
“There are fantastic organizations doing resettlement work across the state that can provide them with assistance and services they need,” the legislators wrote.
The lawmakers noted that there are an estimated 30,000 Afghans who are eligible for evacuation and added that New York is ready to help them.
“We hope you will consider New York as a new home for those who have aided our efforts overseas for the past twenty years and who deserve the safety our country can provide,” they wrote.
The U.S. has been evacuating thousands of American citizens and allies in Afghanistan over the last week or so. The U.S. military has evacuated 58,000 people since Aug. 14, when the Taliban took control of Kabul, according to the New York Times.
The administration, however, has struggled to evacuate American citizens and Afghan allies, and the mission is becoming more hazardous as the Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw troops looms.
The Taliban said Tuesday that is blocking Afghans who wish to flee the country from accessing the airport in Kabul.
Today, @Sen_Gounardes & I were joined by colleagues in both houses to implore the @POTUS to welcome & support Afghan refugees & asylum seekers, and that, as a state, we are ready, willing and able to accept them here. pic.twitter.com/MMUrG6eYco
— Catalina Cruz, Esq. (@CatalinaCruzNY) August 19, 2021