Rochester 1 of 25 cities welcoming Afghans with Special Immigrant Visas

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — As the news continues about Afghanistan falling to the hands of the Taliban, thousands of Afghans are frantically fleeing the county out of fear of the new regime.

According to the State Department, Rochester is listed as one of 25 cities in the U.S. as an option for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) to resettle. Afghan translators and interpreters who worked directly with the U.S. Armed Forces or at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul are eligible for SIVs, and now many of them are trying to call Rochester their new home.

“His life is in real danger. Please expedite his case. So, at that time, I checked my case status, it got an update so I was really happy,” said Sayed Omid Sadat, who worked as a translator and an HR administrator for the United States military. He and his family came here on SIVs.

Refugees like Sayed Omid Sadat and his family fled Afghanistan for their safety and are now safely living in Rochester thanks to organizations like Keeping Our Promise and its partners at Catholic Family Center.

“We’re all hands on deck. Everybody is willing to do anything my staff is incredible, they went to the airport,” said Lisa Hoyt, director of refugee and immigration services at Catholic Family Center.

Hoyt and her refugee resettlement team are anticipating the expedited arrival of more SIVs like Sadat.

“I knew we were going to have the exodus out of Afghanistan, but I don’t think that we were prepared for the city to be taken over so quickly. Initially we had been told that there was about to be about 750to 1200 SIVs coming…there’s certainly going to be many more than that,” Hoyt said.

Hoyt and her team are working non-stop to keep up with the unexpected rush.

“We’re receiving sometimes a short notice, sometimes the same day notice. We typically do not receive refugees, but they came Friday, Saturday and Sunday this weekend,” she said.

Hoyt is projecting welcoming nearly 80 Afghans in just this current time period alone.

“Over these next six weeks — the rest of August and all of September — we’re going to see an increase in that number,” Hoyt said.

As the Catholic Family Center and its partner organizations gear up for the rush arrival of more Afghan refugees, Rochester residents like Sayed Omid Sadat are ready to leave a war-torn country behind and call Rochester home.

“We [were] rescued from these bad people. We [were] rescued from worrying. Now we are good,” Sadat said.

If you would like to volunteer and help any Afghan refugees (or any refugees in general), information for the Catholic Family Center can be found here. Or you can call the organization at 585-546-7220.