Challenges Await Resettled Afghans
By Joe Guzzardi
Rental costs across the United States are rising at the fastest rate in decades. Because the COVID-related, federally mandated eviction moratoriums have been lifted, landlords can boot out existing tenants, increase rents and find new occupants. Landlords can reap windfall profits from the new ground rules, but at the expense of the many people who find themselves either homeless or anxious about the possibility of becoming homeless.
In some of the most sought-after destinations, rent has soared faster and higher than the national average. Record high rents, some as high as 40 percent above previous listings, have been seen in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami and Austin. Recently, prospective Manhattan renters waited more than an hour to view an East Village, 371-square-foot, one-bedroom, third-floor walk-up listed for $2,337.39 a month.
Among those caught up in the dramatic rental price spike are the recently arrived Afghan evacuees. The Department of State’s Reception and Placement Program provides the paroled Afghan evacuees – they don’t have refugee status – with initial resettlement services for up to three months. This includes $2,275 per refugee resettled, with $1,225 of that money going toward food, shelter and clothing. The evacuees are eligible for a long list of affirmative social services programs that include Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income, Head Start, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC). Some Afghan families range in size from 6-11 persons which means they require more expensive and harder-to-find three- or four-bedroom units.
As challenging as finding short-term rentals is, long-term housing is more difficult. Evacuees are, for the most part, unemployed, have no credit history and generally are required to provide the first and last months’ rent in advance as well as a security deposit, an aggregate sum that can total several thousand dollars. In Minneapolis, where rent for a 778-square-foot apartment averages $1,621, Gul Rahim finds himself, his family of 13 and his pregnant wife facing eviction. Rahim doesn’t have a job and, since he doesn’t speak English and is caring for his ill and pregnant wife, can’t look for one either. Of Minneapolis’ 1,200 evacuees, 600 like Rahim are confronting a housing crisis and may soon join the city’s substantial homeless population.
As grave as the affordable housing shortage is for the evacuees, adjusting to U.S. K-12 public schools will present equally weighty problems for their children. Afghanistan has a dual education process that differs significantly from the U.S. In Afghanistan, two parallel systems ongoing at the same time. First, religious education is the responsibility of clerics at mosques, and second, the government provides free academic education at state schools. As for U.S. teachers, helping the Afghans will add to their already-substantial responsibility to instruct other international students. Overcrowded schools are coping with millions of English language learners and will now have to instruct Afghan speakers whose native languages are Dari and Pashto. Teacher time spent on English language learners detracts from the instruction that citizen children should receive, the lack of which harms their quality of education. The greater the number of students in a classroom, the less attention each student can receive from the teacher. This particularly affects students who are struggling and need the extra attention.
The housing emergency that many Afghans are dealing with and the K-12 tribulations that lay ahead are the predictable outcomes of the Biden administration’s hasty, botched withdrawal. Moreover, the open border will create the same set of housing and schooling problems for more than 1 million foreign nationals that have arrived from 150 different countries. They’ll all need places to live and education for their children. The question that Biden and his inner circle never asked is what comes next after millions of illegal aliens and evacuees arrive and need nurturing. If the question were ever asked, no one thought to consider the obvious answer – America has enough affordable housing and education woes without compounding them by importing millions more needy people.