Afghan refugees board plane
Afghan refugees line up to board a C-17 Globemaster in Kabul. Defense Department photo

San Diego nonprofit organizations are preparing to help the Afghan refugees now arriving in the United States while also calling for continued support for those left behind under the Taliban.

President Biden said Tuesday that U.S. forces have helped evacuate 70,700 people from the country since Aug. 14, with flights out of Kabul picking up under protection of over 5,000 U.S. troops.

Jewish Family Service of San Diego said it has resettled 74 individuals since Aug. 6, and “is actively preparing for the increase of refugees resettled in our region” under the Special Immigrant Visa program.

“Most cases are assigned to JFS with little more than 24 hours’ notice before arrival, though all have prior connections — whether family or friends — to the San Diego region,” said Etleva Bejko, director of refugee and immigration services for the nonprofit organization.

Shane Harris, president of the People’s Association of Justice Advocates, urged the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to pass a formal resolution of welcoming for Afghan refugees.

Harris, who was joined by leaders of the local Afghan community at a press conference on Tuesday, also called on county officials to develop a coordinated plan for housing the refugees.

“Our county can take these actions now to demonstrate we stand with the Afghan people and to further demonstrate we are prepared should we receive an influx of Afghan refugees,” he said.

Others in San Diego expressed concern for the future status of women in Afghanistan and those who want to leave but cannot get out.

The Lawyers Club of San Diego called for “immediate support for Afghan women and others who have worked to advance democracy and human rights and who are in grave danger” under the fundamentalist Muslim Taliban. The group sent letters to numerous members of Congress seeking their help.

“We are concerned that the available pathways to safety for Afghans who were not directly involved with U.S. armed forces are extremely limited in scope and number,” said Maggie Schroedter, president of the club whose mission is to advance the status of women in the law and society.

Rep. Sara Jacobs echoed those thoughts, saying she supported the decision to leave Afghanistan after 20 years but is “disappointed in the execution of the withdrawal.”

“We must guarantee humanitarian parole for vulnerable Afghans, increase the refugee cap and provide assistance to welcome Afghan refugees, ensure legal safeguards and funding for organizations that deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, and evacuate as many Americans and vulnerable Afghans as possible before the withdrawal is complete,” Jacobs said.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.