Group of unaccompanied children from Afghanistan arrives in Chicago as wave of refugees continues

About 75 unaccompanied minors arrived in Chicago on Wednesday morning, according to city and federal officials.

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Afghan refugees line up for food outside a dining hall at Fort Bliss’ Doña Ana Village, in New Mexico, where they are being housed, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. The Biden administration provided the first public look inside the U.S. military base where Afghans airlifted out of Afghanistan are screened, amid questions about how the government is caring for the refugees and vetting them.

David Goldman/AP file photo

About 75 unaccompanied minors from Afghanistan arrived in Chicago on Wednesday, according to city officials.

During a Wednesday morning hearing for the City Council’s committee on immigrant and refugee rights, Nubia Willman, the director of the city’s Office of New Americans, said 75 Afghan minors were expected to arrive in Chicago.

“Many of our community leaders are at the airport helping these newcomers,” Willman said during the hearing. “These leaders and advocates are looking at the city to see if we will live our values and welcome this community.”

At least 500 Afghans are expected to be resettled in Chicago following the U.S. military withdrawal in Afghanistan, Willman said. The focus of Wednesday’s committee hearing was to recommend to the full City Council a resolution condemning gender-based violence in Afghanistan now that the Taliban has seized political power.

The U.S Department of Homeland Security confirmed Wednesday that a flight of Afghan children from Qatar arrived in Chicago. The children — who were traveling without a parent or legal guardian — will be reunited with a vetted relative or will remain in the custody of the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, according to the DHS spokesperson.

The children will receive COVID-19 vaccines if eligible for it, according to DHS.

Cesar Rodriguez, a spokesman for Mayor Lori Lightfoot, posted a statement on Twitter saying that the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications along with the Department of Aviation had been working with state and federal officials to assist the children.

“Chicago will always be a welcoming home to those displaced and we will work with our State and federal partners to ensure we support the Afghanistan minors who arrived this morning,” the statement read. “They have given up their homes, their families, their lives as they know them for a chance to survive.”

The arrival of the children comes as resettlement agencies in the Chicago area continue to welcome refugees who have fled Afghanistan.

Nathan White, the director of external engagement for World Relief Chicago, said earlier this week that the resettlement agency is expecting to help resettle 150 Afghans, some of whom were starting to arrive this week.

The organization has been flooded with requests from people who want to volunteer to help those arriving from Afghanistan, and World Relief Chicago will be doing trainings in the coming weeks, White said. They have also received so many donations that the organization’s storage unit is at capacity.

White said they are encouraging people to save donations for now until the organization has more room.

“This is something that won’t be resolved in a matter of weeks,” White said about the resettlement of Afghans in the Chicago area. “It will take awhile to get people acclimated to life here.”

Elvia Malagón’s reporting on social justice and income inequality is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust. 

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