Despite refugee resettlement going down across the United States, in Sacramento it is on the rise.
Since October, 1,500 refugees have resettled in the Sacramento area through the International Rescue Committee and several more through other agencies.
The majority, 90 percent, are from Afghanistan. And nearly all of those are part of the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program.
That means they risked their lives to help U.S. troops in Afghanistan or Iraq and then have the option to seek security in the United States.
A few quick things to know about Sacramento on World Refugee Day pic.twitter.com/AnSRsfRgui— Liz Kreutz (@ABCLiz) June 21, 2017
Nowroz is a former doctor who from 2008 to 2014 helped build the health care system for U.S. troops in Afghanistan. He moved his family to Sacramento in November 2014.
“At the beginning, it was a proud side of the story. I was proud to serve for my nation for the purpose that I went to medical school,” he told ABC10. “In another side, I had a fear about my personal safety and safety of my family. You don’t know all those people who are surrounded by…which one is the friend and which one is the enemy.”
It took Nowroz four years to get his visa to come to the U.S.
“I’d say it took forever,” he recalled. “You have to go through the intense security and background check process.”
Like many Afghan refugees, Nowroz chose Sacramento because he already knew people in the area. But that didn’t prevent the culture shock.
After serving as a doctor in his home country, he said the first job he was offered in Sacramento was at Chipotle.
“We were not allowed to practice as doctors,” he said. “It was really difficult not just for me, for every SIV, to digest that situation.”
He eventually found a job as a clinical coordinator at an insurance company, but now works as a full time resettlement and placement case worker for the International Rescue Committee.
While happy in Sacramento, and safe, when asked what he misses most about his former home, he was quick to respond.
“My social status,” he said, “And my family.”
To learn more about the refugee resettlement program visit the International Rescue Committee.