Monroe County welcomes 250 Afghan interpreters

Monroe County

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — As many as 250 Afghan interpreters and their families who fought alongside the U.S against terrorism in Afghanistan are being relocated here to Monroe County. After being evacuated from their homeland 50 are already here.

They’re being welcomed with housing, medical aid, and job preparation. Monroe County Executive Adam Bello directed the veterans service agency to recognize them as veterans qualifying them for benefits and other public assistance. 

“Many of these people have been traumatized,” Bello said. “They’ve been uprooted and they’re in a place where they know few people if anyone.”  

After living through 20 years of deadly battles in their own backyards, they took part in a chaotic evacuation to escape death. Afghans who fought as U.S. allies could need serious mental health counseling as they begin their next chapter in America.

Through the Dwyer Program and Trybe Ecotherapy, these refugees can be put on paths where they can transition to civilian life using peer-to-peer support or nature-based mental health services. This is all possible through the Catholic Family Center and Keeping Our Promise charity.  

“That means housing, food, connection to important services such as health services, and employment services,” explained Jim Morrison of the Catholic Family Center. “I just want to make an additional plea for donated goods, landlords that are willing to house new SIV families, and employers as well.” 

“Every single person standing behind me, the expectation from our community is more than entry-level jobs for them,” added Nick Stefanovic, director of the Monroe County Veterans Service Agency, which provides public funding. “They are educated. They have experience working in the military. We need good jobs for them.”

Many U.S. veterans credit interpreters with keeping them alive and helping them get home safe. “The interpreters also fought on the battlefield with us,” Stefanovic said. “We were in situations where we had no other options but to make sure that they were armed. If anyone thinks that the Taliban hated us, multiply those times 10 when it came to them. They made great risk and great sacrifices for their country and ours.”

Some interpreters themselves spoke about why they chose Rochester and how Afghanistan has changed under Taliban rule putting them in great danger if they stayed. DeMarco Taylor Law Group is also stepping in to offer legal counseling and advice to Afghan Interpreters to understand local laws. Their kids are also able to be registered to go to school here.

Hear directly from the interpreters below:

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