By Elizabeth Marcellino
City News Service
LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has voted to welcome and support Afghan refugees and returning military personnel with a range of services, including jobs and housing.
The vote was 4-0, with Supervisor Sheila Kuehl absent from the board meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 31.
Supervisor Hilda Solis recommended that the county’s CEO establish an Afghan Refugee Task Force and coordinate with federal, state and non-governmental agencies to provide resources to Afghan nationals resettling in Los Angeles County.
Supervisor Janice Hahn noted that many are fleeing because they fear retaliation from the Taliban for helping the American war effort.
“We have always been known in LA County as a place for immigrants of all nations to set up a new life,” Hahn said. “We say to all you Afghan nationals coming here, you are welcome here, you will be safe here, and we will all work together to make sure that your settlement is something that we can all be proud of.”
Support could range from cash aid to medical and mental health care, workforce development and legal assistance with immigration.
Private companies are also stepping up to help. Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who co-authored the motion, highlighted Airbnb’s international efforts to open up homes to Afghans and said she was proud to be in a position to give back.
“I make the pledge to help every way I can to provide safe and welcoming placement to all, and homes for those, and jobs for those who are coming into LA County,” Barger said, calling the work “vitally important.”
Once the refugee task force is in place, the board plans to send a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to let him know that LA County stands ready to work with the federal government in its efforts to resettle Afghan nationals.
The motion also called for an assessment of all available services for returning military veterans.
“We have to be ready to provide assistance that these service members might need when they return home,” Solis said, noting that a member of her staff on military leave has not yet come home from Afghanistan.
At the start of the board meeting, at Solis’ request, the supervisors held a moment of silence and later adjourned in the memory of the 13 service members and an estimated 170 Afghanis killed in the suicide bombing at Kabul airport last week.
Solis read out loud the names of the American military dead one by one.
“We have lost too many service members from Los Angeles County,” she said.
Barger underscored the potential need for mental health services.
“Those service members who sacrificed so much are also having a tough time,” she said. “While we are closing a chapter, for some it is still very much wide open, and we need to provide them with a healing process moving forward.”
A report is expected back in 30 days, including a coordinated plan to quickly link both refugees and veterans with services.