Message regarding Afghan refugees

Dec. 13, 2021

In collaboration with Jewish Family Services of Washtenaw County (JFSWC), I am pleased to announce that Eastern will host approximately a dozen refugee families from Afghanistan in campus apartments as part of their resettlement to the United States. 

JFSWC is the local resettlement agency assisting with finding homes and providing extensive services to Afghan families and other refugee families throughout Washtenaw County. Last month, JFSWC made the University aware of a critical need for living space for newly arrived Afghan families, and we expressed an immediate willingness to help. 

To date, several of these families have been housed in extended-stay hotels in the area after completing extensive processing, background checks, and medical tests. All eligible refugees also have received COVID-19 vaccinations. 

The resettlement efforts on Eastern’s campus will also provide volunteer opportunities for Eastern students through JFSWC, both to help ready apartments for use by these families, and to mentor young family members and help them in their acclimation to the area and U.S. culture. We hope our community will embrace these opportunities fully and add to the local support network and availability of resources for these families.

While on campus, the families are required to follow all rules, regulations, and procedures required by EMU, including those in place to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. These include: vaccination of all eligible persons; mask-wearing in all indoor public areas on campus; completing an electronic “COVID PASS” Daily Health Screening before visiting EMU’s main campus area; and participating in the University’s COVID-19 testing processes. In addition, the families are required to abide by all of the rules and regulations that are in place for students living in University housing. 

Most of us can’t imagine the challenges and hardships these families have experienced. I'm tremendously gratified that Eastern is able to partner with JFSWC and support its critical resettlement work for these families. 

For several years, our campus has been adorned with banners bearing a simple and positive message: "You Are Welcome Here." Never has that message been more important than it is today. We aim to do our very best, along with the support of the entire EMU community, to make our Afghan guests welcomed and supported.

In describing the resettlement efforts, JFS’ Executive Director Anya Abramzon said, 

“As we welcome over 300 Afghan newcomers to our community, we are so grateful to EMU for doing their part to help us support this humanitarian crisis.”  

We are beyond proud to assist in this important effort. Please join me in welcoming these families to our community.

James Smith, Ph.D. 


From Student Body President Luis Romero and Vice President Auryon Azar

At the end of last week, we were informed that Washtenaw County, in partnership with Jewish Family Services of Washtenaw County (JFSWC), would be receiving an influx of hundreds of Afghan refugees. Some have already arrived, and JFSWC has done incredible work providing translation services, housing, and food to these families. Still, the task of resettling hundreds of people from a vastly different culture is incredibly difficult.

Over the past few days, Student Government has met with administration officials and JFSWC to coordinate an effort to resettle several of these refugee families in apartments on campus. These efforts by the University have our complete and unequivocal support. 

JFSWC has thus far housed these refugees in hotels, a costly and alienating endeavor; providing university housing gives JFSWC an opportunity to devote their money to other services like translators, clothing, and food, and gives these refugee families a more stable and comfortable living situation.

Eastern’s involvement in this resettlement process lifts a large burden off JFSWC, and facilitates the settlement of even more of these families within the larger community. But it is also a perfect example of supporting our values with action. We constantly call attention to ideas like thoughtfulness, respect, kindness, and community. By providing substantive support to these families in need, we embody these values emphatically, and become a model for other students and universities to follow. The call to help those in need is a moral imperative that our school has answered.

Many students, staff, and faculty on our campus have an idea of how difficult resettlement is. Moving across the world to a country that speaks a different language, carries a different culture, and has a vocal minority that rails against your arrival is extraordinarily demanding; to do so just after your country’s government has been overthrown even more so. Let us make it a priority to support where we can, give space where it is needed, and be compassionate in our discourse.

To those joining our community for the first time: You are welcome here.

Luis Romero, Student Body President                 Auryon Azar, Student Body Vice President