US couple helps Afghans flee and build life in rural America

US couple helps Afghans flee and build life in rural America

Clarin, 55, has helped get five of her former employees and their families into the U.S. since 2017, while her wife has helped them rebuild their lives in America. Since U.S. forces withdrew, more than 70,000 Afghans have come to the United States and thousands are languishing at U.S. military bases as resettlement agencies struggle to keep up.

In the process, the 12 agricultural specialists, all traditional Afghan men, formed a deep, unexpected bond with their boss, an American woman who worked as a U.S. Department of Agriculture adviser in the region for two years. Now Caroline Clarin is trying to save them one by one, doing it all from the 1910 Minnesota farmhouse she shares with her wife, drawing from retirement funds to help a group of men who share her love of farming. She’s driven by fear her team will be killed, though the Taliban have promised not to target Afghans who helped the U.S.. The most recent of Clarin’s friends to escape was Ihsanullah Patan, a horticulturist who waited seven years for a special immigrant visa. After he texted her that two of his close friends had just been killed, Clarin withdrew $6,000 from a retirement fund to get him and his family on a commercial flight to Minnesota before the Taliban took control of the country this summer.

When Clarin picked them up at the airport in Minneapolis at midnight for the three-hour drive back to Fergus Falls, she was consumed with joy.

“It was like my son came home,” she said. Patan considers Clarin and her wife family. His three sons and daughter call them their “aunties.” In fact, he’s decided to live in nearby Fergus Falls, a town of 14,000, instead of moving to a larger city with an Afghan transplant community.

Surrounded by farmland stretching to the North Dakota border, the town’s skyline is dominated by grain elevators and the spires of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, a reflection of the region’s Scandinavian roots. The only other Afghan family in town is his cousin’s. Sami Massoodi, who has a degree in livestock management, also worked for Clarin’s team in Afghanistan and arrived in 2017. He and his family lived on their farm before they got established in Fergus Falls. “In Fergus Falls, they have really good people, really friendly people,” Patan said as he drives his minivan down the tree-lined streets to pick up his 5-year-old daughter at a Head Start program.

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