White House Coordinator Jack Markell Visits Catholic Charities in Oklahoma City to Discuss Afghan Resettlement with Community Leaders

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Former Governor Jack Markell Visits Catholic Charities
Jack Markell, Imam Imad Enchassi, Michael Korenblit, Adam Soltani, Patrick Raglow

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Former Governor of Delaware and current White House Coordinator for Operation Allies Welcome, Jack Markell, visited Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City on Thursday for a day-long tour and listening session on the overview of the Afghan resettlement efforts in Oklahoma. The purpose of his visit was to uplift and learn more about the best practices for Afghan resettlement by state, city, and community organizations.

President Biden appointed Markell back in September as Operation Allies Welcome Coordinator to coordinate across the federal government and engage with state and local governments, non-profits, and others from the private sector to support the resettlement of Afghan evacuees.

“I’m grateful to Catholic Charities for their monumental work to welcome our Afghan allies as our neighbors and provide support as they start their new lives,” said Markell. “The community in Oklahoma City is approaching resettlement with the creativity and dedication to service that makes historic moments like this possible.”

The visit with the former governor started at the Oklahoma National Memorial and Museum where Patrick Raglow, Executive Director of Catholic Charities in Oklahoma City, and other resettlement leaders explained the meaning of the Oklahoma Standard within our community.

“We wanted to begin the day with the story of the Oklahoma City Memorial. We could not welcome so many if it weren’t for the still-remembered lessons of our response to that tragedy and the Oklahoma Standard which embodies our response,” said Raglow. “In many ways it is the foundation on which we are building our response.”

Following the visit to the Memorial, the former governor was taken to an undisclosed hotel where the newest Afghan arrivals have been staying temporarily. Here he was able to observe the cultural orientation and activities firsthand and meet a family who has been resettled through Catholics Charities.

The remainder of the day was spent at Catholic Charities discussing housing solutions, lunch with the resettlement staff, and a listening session with state and local stakeholders.

One of the topics discussed in the listening session was the need for permanent housing for the refugees and the need to expand outside of Oklahoma City. Representatives from Community Cares Partners spoke on the federal government’s Emergency Rental Assistance program and their success in administering that program for qualified Afghan allies. All Afghan evacuees arriving in Oklahoma are being registered for housing through Catholic Charities and generally qualify because of lack of income and risk of homelessness. With a 98% housing occupancy rate in Oklahoma, however, finding housing fast enough still proves challenging. Permanent housing solutions are being identified as clients work through case management.

Other topics of discussion included welcoming efforts, employment and legal services, cultural challenges, social integration, airport reception, use of over-the-phone language interpreters, and refugee responses.

347 Afghan refugees have arrived in Oklahoma City since September 22nd and it’s expected that 50 families will be arriving per week through February.

“I wish the American people could listen to this. The Oklahoma Standard is not just a piece of rhetoric, but is a reality,” said Markell speaking to the case managers and staff involved in these efforts.

Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt joined later in the afternoon, and a group of local veterans representing different branches of the military met privately with Markell.

The objective of the discussion was to gauge local responses by those who had been deployed to Afghanistan and their thoughts on how the integration back into a thriving society is being addressed. One person noted that veterans are able to better facilitate arrivals because of their cultural exposure from deployments.

Throughout this discussion, Markell remarked that the collective effort within Catholic Charities is “impressive”. He will be traveling to additional cities across the country over the next couple weeks and will be in Tulsa on Friday to visit Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma where resettlement services are also being provided.

“Just imagine the lives that you are changing. Ten years from now these kids are going to be fully integrated into their American schools or they’ll be working, and they’re going to look back and they will know it will be because of your work that the American dream could be just as real to them as it was for generations and generations before us.”


About Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City

Guided by Catholic teaching, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City serves those in need, regardless of their faith, through transformative, empowering and dignity-affirming social service programs that seek to eliminate material, emotional and spiritual poverty across Central and Western Oklahoma. To learn more, call 405-523-3000, visit ccaokc.org, or follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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