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Welcoming New Arrivals from Afghanistan to Minnesota

By Mark Ritchie | Published: December 8, 2021

The emergency evacuation in August and September of thousands of Afghans who supported the U.S. government and military over the last two decades was both dangerous and complicated. The United States has a special responsibility regarding this particular refugee crisis, and to those affected by the consequences of the extended U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.

International students and scholars learn about life in greater Minnesota with a weekend trip to
Brainerd in 1993, where they stayed with host families.

Minnesota has a long, proud history of welcoming new arrivals – no matter their place of origin or circumstances. We have the most refugees (per capita) living here in the entire United States and our Diaspora populations are deeply rooted in the broader community. Many organizations across the state, including Concordia Language Villages, are central to our reputation as a place devoted to advancing international understanding and global engagement.

As our state and nation begin to welcome our new Afghan neighbors, Global Minnesota and many other organizations are mobilizing to support refugee resettlement efforts by connecting our networks to the community-based resources through which we all can offer help.

Every week the MN Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans hosts the Afghan Evacuee Community Roundtable, a connection hub for a diverse group of stakeholders working diligently to provide a warm and welcoming atmosphere for individuals and families arriving from Afghanistan. The overarching purpose is to leverage community assets and expertise across the state to ensure that all new arrivals are supported in both large and small ways. The meetings are open to the public with all attendees asked to adhere to four guiding principles:

  • Uplift the individuals and families coming to Minnesota as the experts of their own needs and prioritize their concerns.
  • Celebrate the resilience, strength, and expertise of community voices.
  • Actively work against the influences of systemic inequity and elevate the voices of those who have been historically marginalized.
  • Maintain a spirit of joy and fellowship in our work as a tool of healing and transformation.

There are many excellent ways for all of us to offer our time, talent, or funds to this important resettlement effort. In addition, we can all take part in raising awareness across our community and beyond about the arrival of these new neighbors.

This awareness raising is not meant to replace or duplicate efforts by existing organizations who work in this arena every day, but to highlight and support areas of opportunity that can welcome and aid our new Afghan neighbors. The most immediate need is to share emerging resources broadly with family, friends, and colleagues. Here is one of the best single sources of information on how we can all make a difference in the lives of our new friends.

For readers in other parts of the country, almost every state has welcomed Afghan refugees. You should be able to find similar resources in your home state that parallel efforts being made in Minnesota.

About the Author

Mark Ritchie is president of Global Minnesota, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization devoted to advancing international understanding and engagement. Mark served as Minnesota’s elected Secretary of State from 2007 to 2015, and as the President of the National Association of Secretaries of State. Since leaving elected public service, Mark has led the public-private partnership working to bring the 2027 World Expo to Minnesota. Mark is a national advisory board member of the federal Election Assistance Commission and the Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army for Minnesota

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