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Monroe County offers some veterans benefits to Afghan intepreters

Monroe County/Facebook
Ali Morodi, a former Afghan interpreter for the U.S. military, who has been in Rochester since 2017 was among those speaking at a news conference at the Monroe County Office Building on Tuesday.

Monroe County is taking additional steps to help Afghan interpreters and their families.  County Executive Adam Bello notes that dozens have already arrived in the region this year, and there could be up to another 200 refugees settling in Monroe County by the end of this year.

Bello has announced that the county’s Veterans Service Agency will offer benefits to the Afghan families.

“I’ve directed the Monroe County veteran’s service agency to offer benefits to these refugees which include access to mental health programs, employment resources and connecting them with a law office which is helping provide legal assistance,” Bello said.

Ali Moradi is one of the local Afghan refugees, and a  former interpreter. He’s been in Rochester since 2017, but he said it’s even more of a challenge for new Afghan refugees coming to this area, as they try to find a job and various services.

“The companies, they don’t know them, they don’t trust us, when we go find a job, they don’t trust us. They say, ok, ‘we cannot give you this job because, really, we don’t have any information about your background, were you come from, or how you work, how your people work, how you talk,’” Moradi said.

Bello says the county will work to help connect the Afghan interpreters to employment services.

Nick Stefanovic is Director of Monroe County Veterans Services. He served about 18 months in Afghanistan and said he owes his life to his interpreter.

“These Afghan SIV’s (Special Immigrant Visa) to me, they’re brothers and sisters, and the rest of our veteran population believes the same way in Monroe County. And I’m glad that we’re opening a new door today and recognizing them as so. I hope companies and the rest of the community recognizes the service they gave to this country and the threat that their families are under right now,” Stefanovic said.

A number of local organizations are helping with the resettlement effort including Catholic Family Center, the Veterans Outreach Center, and Keeping our Promise. Congressman Joe Morelle, (D-25), was also at Tuesday’s announcement. He said his staff has been working nearly around the clock to help Afghan interpreters and their families in the Rochester area.

Bello said the DeMarco Taylor Law Group, will offer basic legal counseling pro bono for interpreters and their families.