NORFOLK, Va. — Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is taking new steps to help ease Afghan refugees into life in Virginia.
More than a month has passed since U.S. troops left Afghanistan for good.
The Taliban has since taken complete control of the country.
In their final days at the Kabul Airport, troops evacuated more than 120,000 Afghan allies and their families.
Thousands of those refugees ended up right here in Virginia.
In the chaotic exit from Afghanistan, more than 53,000 Afghan refugees fled their war-torn country and landed at Dulles International Airport.
Currently, 15,000 refugees are still trying to get back on their feet around the state at Quantico, Fort Pickett, and Fort Lee.
"We must work to ensure that immigrants today not only have equitable opportunities for access and success, but we must also do the hard work to ensure that immigrants today are accurately perceived as contributing members to our communities," said Dr. Janice Underwood, Co-Chair of the newly formed Executive Team on Immigrant Integration.
The governor's new team is estimating 1,200 Afghan families will settle in Virginia.
So, they’re doing what they can to support them.
"Our Governor's executive leadership team will work across agencies to ensure that Virginia’s refugee resettlement and immigrant integration systems are strong enough to provide for the arrival of SIV families and other evacuees resettling in Virginia," said Governor Ralph Northam.
Since the Afghan refugees arrived in Virginia, the Commonwealth has helped provide medical services, short-term lodging, cash assistance, and establishing immigration status in phases one and two.
Now, the Immigrant Integration team is moving into what they call phase three.
They will focus on areas such as providing food assistance, access to affordable housing, mental health services, helping students move into higher education, ensuring equitable language access for students, addressing barriers to get a driver’s license, and access to public transportation.
They’ll also provide pathways to entrepreneurship, job opportunities, and licensure for occupations like medical professionals and educators.
However, they aren’t sure how long phase three will take.
"Our goal has always been to make Virginia an open and welcoming state where everyone feels safe to rebuild their lives and make a new home," said Northam.
Right now, he says more than 12% of Virginia's population was born in another country.
The executive team will also work to address discrimination and hate and enhance overall “cultural competence.”
The team is working with six different non-profit agencies to address these needs. So, if you're a citizen and you want to help, you can send an email to DEIDirector@governor.virginia.gov and they will put you in touch with those non-profits.