White House staff member addresses concerns with Afghan refugee program in Oklahoma

Mariah Ellis

TULSA, Okla. — Former Delaware Governor and White House Operation Allies Welcome Coordinator, Jack Markell, spoke during a press conference Friday afternoon in Tulsa.

Markell is visiting a handful of city’s across the country to learn more about Afghan resettlement efforts.

Eastern Oklahoma Catholic Charities has been welcoming and helping more than 200 Afghan refugees who have already arrived to Tulsa over the last few months. Deacon Kevin Sartorius said Tulsa is on their way toward at least 800. He said Oklahoma City will welcome even more refugees, they’re preparing for 1,800 in the next four months. 

Over the last two days, Markell met with members of Catholic Charities and other helping organizations and community partners. He said it’s what’s made the transition for so many of these families possible.

He said, “I really believe that the ‘Oklahoma Standard’ is real.” Markell said he learned this while visiting Oklahoma City on Thursday. -Markell said he wants to put a light on Oklahoma’s efforts as well as learn how other areas can adopt their same safe and welcoming approach.

He said, “It’s the kind of leaning in to the generous spirit of the American people that’s going to make this effort successful all over the country.” -Markell said he was asked by the president to serve as the coordinator for Operation Allies to welcome and help allies from Afghanistan to resettle in the U.S. He said the White House is working to help nearly 120,000 Afghan refugees.

Although there are many positives in Oklahoma, Markell said there are also some challenges with the process including the housing market. He said not only is housing limited, but it’s also expensive. On the other hand, he said these individuals have come to the country during a time where there’s an abundance of jobs and opportunity.

Markell said they are working to speed up the process to receive things like social security and work authorization documents so everyone can get to work as quickly as possible.

White House staff member addresses concerns with Afghan refugee program in Oklahoma| Fox23