DePaul is resettling ten Afghan refugees

DePaul will soon welcome 10 Afghan refugees to campus.

After the fall of the Afghan government to the Taliban, 148 Afghan students from Asian University for Women (AUW) reportedly evacuated Afghanistan. They flew to a military base in the U.S. to be relocated to several American universities — including DePaul — to finish their studies

The refugees will be full students at DePaul: They’ll live in the dorms, eat at the Student Center and attend classes.

The group is currently waiting at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin to get the last of their paperwork and visas in order before they can come to Chicago.

Although they attended an English-language school before leaving their home country, university administrators will still place them in DePaul’s intensive English classes through the English Language Academy in the Loop Campus.

“We’re proud to be able to do this work,” said GianMario Besana, associate provost of DePaul’s Global Engagement and Online Learning. “Because it’s in sync and resonates with DePaul’s mission, and we’re blessed to be able to support them… this has been such an outpouring of support from every corner of the DePaul community.”

DePaul has partnered with Refugee One to settle the students. This is the first time DePaul is resettling refugees in this magnitude, although the two organizations have worked together in the past.

DePaul offers an Open Arms Scholarship, which offers tuition assistance to one refugee, asylee or asylum seeker per year. The Afghan students coming to DePaul will receive full tuition and room and board assistance.

Besana said protecting the refugees’ privacy is of the utmost importance.

“We’re trying to welcome them as deserved while also protecting their privacy,” Besana said. “They’re coming to us after severe trauma. Once they get here, we want them to have some degree of normalcy.”

When students encounter the Afghan students, they should treat them like any other peer, Emily Kraus, ​​the assistant director of special programs of global engagement, said.

“Keep in mind that a refugee might have experienced something traumatic,” Kraus said. “Encounter them with grace, and… with an open mind and open heart… And allow them to have space to feel like they can normalize their experience at DePaul.

Besana said the various uncertainties and unknowns — when the students will arrive, how proficient in English they are, what their exact needs are — makes planning difficult. The DePaul community is working hard to prepare for their arrival. The team working to support the students meets weekly, and students and staff are collecting food and clothing donations, tabling in the Student Center to raise awareness and are preparing to offer peer support systems.

Katy Arnold, a political science professor and director of refugee and forced migration studies, plays a key part in the preparation efforts for the Afghan students.

The DePaul Sanctuary group, a campus organization, plays a role in providing support for immigrants and refugees to make DePaul a sanctuary campus.

Chicago is a sanctuary city — it provides a level of protection for immigrants. Sanctuary zones limit the sharing of student information with federal immigration authorities, restrict federal agent’s access to information about students and provide resources and information for immigrants. DePaul itself has not adopted a “sanctuary campus” label, although in the past the university has pledged support for refugee and immigrant populations.

“These [DePaul] students are just amazing. And without them, we wouldn’t have a room full of clothing and food,” Arnold said.

Arnold said a network of activists at DePaul and beyond are working to provide complete resources and get the students safely to DePaul.

“These students coming in are going to be in an entirely new community at an entirely new university,” said Maddie Easton, a DePaul political science graduate and department assistant. “And it’s just like having that base level of, ‘You don’t need to worry about this part because we can provide those sorts of resources for you,’ is something that I think will be very helpful in getting them resettled here.”

DePaul’s political science department will set up donated supplies like a shop for the refugee students, allowing them to pick and choose what supplies they need.

“We’re excited to welcome them into our community,” Easton said.