New Mexico prepares for Afghan refugees

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – New Mexico’s Human Services Department has partnered with agencies that can provide basic needs like SNAP benefits, transportation, and even housing as soon as Afghan refugees land in the state.

Leaders said they’re ready to assist as families fight to leave Afghanistan, and departments and organizations in New Mexico plan to welcome them with open arms.

"I can’t imagine how frightened some of them may be, being in a new country,” said Angela Medrano, deputy secretary of the state’s Human Services Department.

NMHSD gets federal grant money from the Office of Refugee Resettlement each year to help with situations like the current one in Afghanistan.

"Those monies are utilized by our department to contract with a community agency to provide the necessary services to refugees that are received in New Mexico,” said Medrano.

The department got more than $1.2 million dollars last year, and is on track to get about the same this year.

They provide refugees with SNAP benefits, medicaid coverage and cash assistance.

Part of the funds also go to the Department of Health to assist with health screenings.

Those partners are standing by as they wait to hear when and how many refugees could land in New Mexico.

"We will be able to create a structure that will be able to provide services expeditiously to the refugees so we’re working together to make it happen,” said Medrano.

The White House made the announcement last week that Holloman Air Force Base will be one of seven in our country to receive refugees.

Once the refugees land, partners like Lutheran Family Services will move in to provide transportation, and help with HSD’s application process.

"I would encourage New Mexicans to welcome our refugees that come to New Mexico and if they’re able to provide assistance in any way in the form of volunteering,” said Medrano.

Medrano believes it’s possible to make them feel welcome on day one.

"I’m hoping that we can welcome them and make them feel as comfortable as possible and hopefully provide them the benefits that will help to ease that fear and make that transition as smooth as possible,” she said.

Lutheran Family Services is the Department Of Human Services’ direct partner, based here in Albuquerque.

The Lutheran Family Services website is where volunteers can apply. They are in need of monetary donations, and any old smartphones or laptops for refugees that could make their way here.