A Refugee Surge

November 11, 2019
By Avi Rose

You’ve probably seen this on the news. In the midst of a massive global humanitarian crisis, the Trump administration has intensified its efforts to decimate the U.S. refugee resettlement program. A recent executive order set the target number of refugee arrivals for 2020 at 18,000, a historic low. You may also have seen reports that zero—yes, zero—refugees were resettled in the United States in October.

Despite this travesty at the federal level, our situation here at JFCS East Bay is a little bit different. In fact, during the month of October, we welcomed a record number of refugees into our community.

Here’s why: for the past several years, most of the people we’ve been resettling are Afghans holding Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) as a result of their work for U.S. government entities, usually the military. Because their lives are in danger specifically because of their service to the United States, Afghan SIV holders are not subject to the 18,000 refugee cap for the year.

Additionally, once SIVs receive their visas in Kabul, they usually arrange their travel and get on planes as quickly as they can, often without being in contact with a resettlement agency in advance. That means that some refugee families literally show up on our doorstep seeking services and support.

In October alone—while much of the U.S. resettlement program was dormant—JFCS East Bay welcomed 35 individuals of all ages. It was our busiest month in recent years and we have every reason to expect that these high arrival numbers will continue.

Given this surge in arrivals, we need to turn to you, our community, for help. Here’s what we’re looking for:

  • Volunteers: many of the Afghan families live in Concord and need support during weekday work hours. Individual and groups of volunteers transport people to appointments, help with school enrollment, assist with finding jobs, tutor in English, show people around the community, and more. Please email Kathryn Winogura at if you are interested.
  • Furniture Donations: we need the following items in like-new condition, delivered to our storage unit in Walnut Creek: twin, bunk, full, or queen beds and bed frames; dining tables and matching chairs; small dressers; coffee tables; lamps; and electric fans. Please send pictures and descriptions of your items to Kathryn Winogura at .
  • Household Items: we need the following items in like-new condition, delivered to our office in Walnut Creek: dishes and glasses sets; silverware; cooking utensils; pots and pans; blenders; toaster ovens; crock pots; electric tea kettles; microwaves; flat-screen TVs; baby strollers; car seats; and port-a-cribs. Please send pictures and descriptions of your items to Kathryn Winogura at .
  • Financial Donations: with so many refugees arriving, your financial support is needed now more than ever. By donating today, you’ll help ensure that our new neighbors receive the level of services and support they need to successfully start their new lives. Visit our donation page and select “Refugees Welcome Fund” from the dropdown menu.