This Afghan refugee feels at home in LA, but misses some family members left behind in Kabul

Written by Amy Ta, produced by Brian Hardzinski

A day after U.S. forces completed its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, Afghan refugees walk to board a bus taking them to a processing center upon their arrival at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, U.S., September 1, 2021. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.

President Biden said on Tuesday that the U.S. and its partners have airlifted 100,000 Afghans out of their country, as American troops have left the 20-year war there. Some of those refugees are now in California, which Governor Gavin Newsom called a “state of refuge.”

Sediq Reshtin and his family left Kabul on August 14, the day before the Taliban took over, to settle in Chatsworth. The father of three describes his departure day: “The morning … was very scary because the situation was not normal. … I heard that the flights might be canceled. … But fortunately, I took the flight to Istanbul and then to Los Angeles.” 

He ended up in Chatsworth because that’s where a friend of his lives. He tells KCRW that he doesn't have friends in any other U.S. state. 

Lilian Alba, vice president of immigrant and refugee services for the International Institute of Los Angeles, says U.S. ties factor into where refugees end up.

“This [U.S. ties] would be someone they know locally, whether that’s a friend or family member. For California, that is the requirement. … Because of the cost of living and shortage of housing, that is one of the requirements that the State Department has established. This is to ensure that families are well-received and they have a place to stay in a short or long-term basis.” 

She explains that the U.S. government pays for the resettlement program. “They provide an initial resettlement grant of about $1025 per refugee. And that’s a one-time grant to assist families with putting [a] security deposit for an apartment, first month’s rent. And then it’s up to the resettlement agencies to establish connections with the community, to gather donations … to help with securing basic necessities.”

She notes that refugees are eligible for public assistance programs and employment services. 

Reshtin says he’s pleased with the social benefits he’s received. 

He adds, “When I arrived here, I get some welcome letters, gifts … from the American friends and families. So I feel I’m in my home. But when I saw on social media, the country’s situation is very bad. My [extended] family’s there, and I miss them. … I feel very bad for them and for the country,” he says.

For those who want to lend a hand, Alba recommends contacting local resettlement agencies to help provide airport reception, housing, furniture, clothes and food. One option is Miry's List Emergency Action Fund

Credits

Guests:

  • Sediq Reshtin - Afghan refugee who settled in Chatsworth
  • Lilian Alba - vice president of immigrant and refugee services for the International Institute of Los Angeles