Minnesota set to take in dozens of Afghan refugees

The Afghan population in Minnesota is small, only around 500 people, but it could grow because the state has agreed to accept dozens of recent Afghan evacuees.

Thousands of families are still trying to flee Afghanistan following the withdrawal of U.S. troops and a quick return to Taliban rule. But some who recently left the chaos in their home country have already arrived in Minnesota.

"It's very difficult," said Jane Graupman with the International Institute of Minnesota. "People had to leave everything they had behind and get on an airplane and come in a very short amount of time to a very foreign place."

The International Institute of Minnesota says it has helped two Afghan families -- one with nine members and the other with five -- re-settle within the last couple of weeks.

The institute's executive director says the biggest challenges have been finding housing and funds. "Refugees get a one-time $1,000 grant from the U.S. government," said Graupman. "But after that they are on their own to support their families."

The Minnesota Department of Human Services says the state has agreed to accept 65 special immigrant visa holders, applicants and their families.

These are Afghans who helped the United States during the war and would be in danger if they remained in Afghanistan. State officials say 35 are already in Minnesota and Graupman expects that number to jump to at least 300 because the U.S. is evacuating some 80,000 people out of Kabul and they will need to be resettled in the next six months.

"It's not easy," said Graupman. "People come here in their 30s or 40s or 50s and they have to start their lives over. Often times in a new career. Their kids are going to school in English and they have to learn the language and the culture to be successful here."

But the institute will do whatever it takes to help the new arrivals call Minnesota home sweet home.

"We want to make sure people can have the best start to a new life here especially in the beginning during that time when people are really having to adapt," said Graupman.