By January 12, 2020 Read More →

Afghan refugee finds peace in W.Va. amid national immigration debate

By Amelia Ferrell Knisely, Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Najib Ahmad Bakhtari found safety in the West Virginia hills when last year he left the danger and unrest in his home country of Afghanistan.

Najib Ahmad Bakhtari

The 28-year-old is a refugee. He is one of three refugees the state accepted in 2019, up from just one the previous year, as the Trump administration has slashed the overall number of refugees the country will admit in the coming year.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice in December said the state would continue to welcome refugees, saying resettlement had been a “great success” in the state. He was forced to publicly comment on immigration policy after President Donald Trump said he’d give state and local leaders the option to deny refugee resettlement.

Amy Shuler Goodwin, mayor of Charleston, last month wrote a similar letter stating Charleston would remain open to refugee resettlement.

A refugee, under United States law, is someone who has been forced to leave their country due to fear of persecution.

Bakhtari landed in Charleston in April from his hometown of Mazar-i-Sharif, a large Afghan city known for its exquisite, blue-topped mosque that pops against the city’s sandy backdrop. He left behind his father, mother and two brothers. He doesn’t know when he’ll see them again.

In Charleston, he found friendly people, opportunity and peace of mind he had not known in Mazar-i-Sharif. …

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