White House Coordinator for Afghan Refugee Resettlement Visits Tulsa, Leaves “Inspired”


Friday, November 19th 2021, 1:34 pm


TULSA, Oklahoma -

The White House coordinator helping oversee Afghan refugee resettlement across America was in Tulsa Friday and said he is impressed with how the process is going here.  

After a two-day visit in Oklahoma, Jack Markell said Friday he was leaving “inspired.” The former Governor of Delaware said during his visit, he heard the term "Oklahoma Standard" for the first time, and now wants to share that with communities across America.  

"I'm here in Oklahoma for a very simple reason, which is that you all are doing it extraordinarily well,” Markell, the White House Operation Allies Welcome Coordinator, said.   

Markell said if asked, he would tell President Joe Biden his biggest takeaway from the visit is seeing the impact of community partnerships between different faith groups, veterans, non-profits, and the city.  

"If he were to ask about the biggest challenge, housing is certainly one of them,” he said.  

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City Executive Director Patrick Raglow said the state is poised to help 1,800 Afghan refugees in the course of four months, a dramatic increase from the number of refugees Catholic Charities typically helps.  

“We received, last year, a grand total of 26 in two cities in 12 months,” Raglow said.  

Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma said right now Tulsa has nearly 300 Afghan refugees, with the expectation to eventually have 800.  

"They're now leaving the hotels. They're getting their apartments. They're going to the grocery store on their own. A simple smile and, 'We're glad you're here,' gives them the confidence and the reassurance; it gives them the peace that they need to know that they truly are loved and that they have dignity." CEO of Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma Deacon Kevin Sartorius said.  

Diane Eason Contreras, the YWCA Tulsa Director of Refugee and Immigrant Services, said while refugees are being introduced to a new culture, she expects Tulsans will learn a lot from Afghan refugees, about hospitality and graciousness.  

Even with little resources, she said refugees are finding ways to give.  

"Every time we go into homes, our staff are offered tea, and they're offered snacks, whatever they can find in the kitchen is put on the best platter that they have and presented to our team,” Eason Contreras said. 

Ret. Capt. Ray Penny, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Afghanistan, also spoke Friday, saying a lot of American veterans are "faced with the task of putting their service into context,” and had a message for his fellow veterans.  

“I’d like to implore all of you to become involved in this. These people stuck their necks out for us in Afghanistan and it’s high time that we return the favor to them. It’s the right thing to do. And all of the veterans in this country who served in that war have a unique set of skills that can be leveraged to ensure that the transition happens smoothly and safely for all of the Afghans.”  

For information on donating to the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City click here and to help Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma, click here.