Va.’s Roem welcomes Afghan refugees: ‘Be decent, just take care of people’

Virginia Del. Danica Roem is extending open arms to Afghan refugees who are arriving in Northern Virginia after fleeing their country in the wake of the Taliban takeover.

In a Saturday tweet, Roem reacted to the arrival of a plane of refugees in Northern Virginia.

“Welcome to Northern Virginia,” Roem tweeted. “For any Afghan refugees on their way to greater Prince William, we’re happy to welcome you to our beautifully diverse community, where people who’ve come from all around the world now call home. Please know you’re safe. We’re glad you’re here.”

Roem told WTOP Sunday that Northern Virginia is uniquely qualified and equipped to provide assistance.

“What better place would there be to welcome people from around the world than a place that already does welcome people from around the world,” Roem asked, rhetorically.

Roem said Northern Virginia is “the melting pot of the mid-Atlantic.”

“You just look at the surge of growth that’s happened in the last 20 to 30 years. The nine jurisdictions that make up Northern Virginia have enclaves of people from all around the world, and people who live side by side, as well.”

Roem, a lifelong resident of Manassas, was first elected to represent the 13th District in the Virginia House of Delegates in 2017. The nation’s first openly transgender woman to be elected to a state legislature was reelected in 2019.

“Prince William County now is more than 60% people of color. We have a number of mosques in the Manassas area. When it comes to infrastructure, diversity of language, diversity of thought — we have so many different people who can be accommodating.”

While many of the refugees arriving in the area will ultimately relocate in other areas of the county, Roem hopes many will choose to live in Northern Virginia: “We tell people in need, ‘we’re glad you’re here, how can we help you,’ as opposed to being hostile to people.”

Roem was asked if some might be concerned newly-arrived refugees might jeopardize employment possibilities for those already living here: “How many employers in Northern Virginia are telling people they have jobs they cannot fill right now, whether it’s in the service industries, or hospitality, or whatever lines of work?”

“The idea that someone is going to lose work to a refugee, on someone who has just gone through an absolute crisis — I do not think it’s a valid concern, whatsoever, that people would be losing their jobs to people who are fleeing civil war.”

In the midst of several of the nation’s wealthiest counties, based on median household income, Roem said she expects federal dollars will help in welcoming refugees, as will donations.

“There’s a lot of ‘want to donate’ and a lot of ‘want to help,’ and I think that’s one of the things that speaks so well of us in Northern Virginia,” Roem said.

Roem said area counties will not realistically be harmed in providing assistance to refugees arriving from Afghanistan: “Let’s just get real for a second — what we should be doing right now is saying welcome, how can we help you?”

“Just be decent — take care of people,” Roem said.

Many refugees are destined for Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, Fort Bliss in Texas and Fort Lee in Virginia.

As word of the refugees’ arrival spread, volunteers from the region’s Afghan community brought food, clothes, toiletries and other supplies and offered service as interpreters.

Some refugees described how they had to leave other family members behind. A man who fled with his 18-month-old son had to leave his wife and daughter behind because they lacked the proper paperwork.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2021 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up