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Business groups to help find jobs for Afghans resettling in St. Louis

"The families from Afghanistan should come to St. Louis with the knowledge that they will find a welcoming community"
Credit: SLBJ
International Institute of St. Louis President Arrey Obenson said Thursday during a press conference that Afghans have ties to the region.

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis-area businesses will work with the International Institute of St. Louis and other groups to assess, train and bring Afghan families fleeing the Taliban into the workforce, the head of the region’s lead economic development agencysaid Thursday.

“The families from Afghanistan should come to St. Louis with the knowledge that they will find a welcoming community that wants to see them thrive, succeed and add to the fabric of our region,” said Jason Hall, chief executive officer of Greater St. Louis Inc., the merged civic group of local economic development agencies.

Speaking at a press conference with St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and other community leaders, Hall said a high percentage of foreign-born residents come to the United States and start new businesses.

"More broadly, 40% of the Fortune 500 companies in this country today were started by an immigrant or the child of an immigrant. They grow our economy and make us stronger,” he said.

This year, 53 Afghans who helped the U.S. government during the 20-year war have arrived in the St. Louis area. St. Louis is among 19 communities where Afghans are resettling under the Special Immigrant Visa program.

The St. Louis region is prepared to accept at least 1,000 Afghan families, said Jones and Cora Faith Walker, chief policy officer for St. Louis County Executive Sam Page. Jones said the city hopes to receive part of the $500 million that President Joe Biden's administration has earmarked for communities that accept Afghan refugees.

Since 2010, the International Institute has helped 626 Afghans move to St. Louis. Over the past three years, nearly 300 people have resettled here under the SIV program for those who served the U.S. government and military as translators, clerks, contractors and community leaders. 

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