Gounardes, Cruz call for Resettlement of Afghan Refugees in New York State

Reagan White House Photographs, 1/20/1981 – 1/20/1989Collection: White House Photographic Collection, 1/20/1981 – 1/20/1989 – https://catalog.archives.gov/id/75854909, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=94340129

The Statue of Liberty’s beckoning torch of freedom is again lighting the way for refugees onto the shores of New York.

That after State Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D-Brooklyn) and Assembly Member Catalina Cruz (D-Queens) spearheaded a state legislature letter Thursday to President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken saying the state is ready and willing to open its doors for asylum seekers and refugees from Afghanistan.

The letter comes as Biden began pulling American troops from the war-torn country in the last week, leaving the Taliban to take control of nearly the entire country leaving thousands of Afghans who have worked with Americans fleeing for their safety.

State Senator Andrew Gounardes
State Senator Andrew Gounardes

“New York has always been a beacon of refuge for those escaping conflict,” said Gounardes. “Many of these asylum-seekers have helped our military members in their country, and we stand ready to help them in ours. It’s time again that we live up to our values and provide a safe haven for Afghans fleeing the Taliban.”

The letter, which 53 state senators and assembly members signed, noted that New York is home to many organizations that perform resettlement work across the State that can provide Afghanis with the assistance and services they need. 

In 2017, for example, the state stepped up and created the New York State Enhanced Services to Refugees Program (NYSESRP), an agency that has been instrumental in supporting thousands of refugee families living in New York who need assistance with healthcare, education, employment, technological support, and translation/interpretation services, the letter stated.

“As the situation in Afghanistan grows more dire by the hour, it’s imperative that New York takes humanitarian action to safely harbor these individuals fleeing tyranny, as we have done in the past, and welcome them into the fabric of our community. This is not only a moral urgency, but a life and death situation for so many Afghans, and we would be remiss in our duties as Americans and as New Yorkers if we did not lend a hand in this time of crisis for so many refugees,” the two lawmakers said in a joint statement.

Cruz said New York has always served as a refuge of hope for immigrants across the globe.

“As the crisis in Afghanistan intensifies, we must act expeditiously to welcome their asylum seekers and refugees to our state, and provide them with the home that they deserve,” said Cruz.