Preparing for a New Life

While this Afghan refugee waits for resettlement, she is working to bring her family to the U.S.

Who: Selin, age 25

What: Afghan refugee and former attorney

Where: Fort Dix, N.J.

What was your life like in Afghanistan?

I was born as a refugee in Iran. My family returned to Afghanistan in 2002, when Hamid Karzai was there and the U.S. had taken control of everything. I started university in 2013. I studied physics at Kabul University, and after that I studied law at American University in Afghanistan. After I graduated, I got a job as an associate attorney at a corporate legal firm. I was paying for my rent, I was paying for my own expenses, and compared to many people in Afghanistan, I had a good income.

How did you feel when you arrived in the U.S.?

It was the first time that I was the person in need. I’m really grateful for all that we have in the U.S. We are safe now. But being a refugee, it has a feeling that you cannot un­derstand unless you are a refugee. All I took with me from Kabul is a laptop, its charger, my phone and a T-shirt. I couldn’t bring anything else. And I’m one of the luckiest people inside this camp because I have a laptop with me.

How long have you been at the military base?

I moved in on September 8. I am getting used to it. We have food, we have clothes, we have beds to sleep in, but we’ve all gotten tired. Everyone wants to get out soon. And the IOM [International Organization for Migration] and the State Department are working very hard to get us out of here as soon as possible.

How do you spend most of your time?

I wake up early in the morning and I e-mail the U.S. embassy and other people that I know can help my family evacuate. We are Hazaras; we’re not considered Muslim by the Taliban. I send some e-mails, and I reply to e-mails, and if I hear something positive from them, I’m very happy during the day. But if I hear something disappointing, I get dis­appointed and very sad during the day. After that, I spend most of my time teaching English classes here.

Have others you know already been re­settled?

Yes, there are many people I know whose re­settlement has started. Every day, many families get out of the base. I am not sure how many people are here now exactly, but at the peak it was about 13,000. I am waiting for my turn. Every day they post a list with ID numbers of people who are going to get out and going to be interviewed again. After the interview, maybe in a week or two, they leave the base.

Will you have any say in where you are re­settled?

Not much. The State Department and IOM are saying they are out of resources to resettle us in any state we want. In the first interview cycle, you can state your preference of where you want to go. Then it is possible that they send you to the state that you want, but it is also possible that they send you to another state.

Will you be given any kind of financial support?

At the beginning, they were saying that there would be welcome money from the government, but now they are saying there will not be any welcome money for anyone. The people who were resettled at the beginning, one month ago or so, received that support. But they’re saying there is no more. This is what I am being told now, but I really don’t know.

Once you are resettled, what are your hopes for the future?

I have a degree in physics, and I want to join Space Force and work with NASA or SpaceX. But the first thing I wish for, the most important thing, is to bring my family to a safe place. To bring my family with me here to the U.S. is my greatest hope.

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