SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — A native of Afghanistan, who now lives in Sioux Falls, says he has mixed feelings about the decision to not allow Afghan refugees to resettle in the state. South Dakota is one of just four states, and the District of Columbia, that will not be accepting evacuees following the U.S. military withdrawal.
Arian Wisaal left Afghanistan to escape the repressive rule of the Taliban back in 1997. He lived in Pakistan before coming to Sioux Falls in 2003, where he now serves authentic food of his former homeland.
Working in the kitchen of his own restaurant is Arian Wisaal’s dream job.
“America is like a dream, a real dream, and everyone wants to be here and see what’s in America,” Wisaal said.
While Wisaal lives out his version of the American dream, he worries about his family back in Afghanistan, now that the Taliban is back in power.
“Our family’s in danger back home and my nephew’s been beaten up, my brother’s not able to go outside the house,” Wisaal said.
Wisaal says his family wants to leave Afghanistan, but South Dakota is not an option for any of the evacuees. Lutheran Social Services says many Afghans who had to leave their country at the last-minute, couldn’t secure the federal financial assistance needed to make a go of it here.
“Yeah, it was a very difficult decision to make, but we believe that resettlement has to be responsible and that we owe it to our community to make sure that people are arriving that they’ve been successfully integrated,” LSS Chief Operating Officer Rebecca Kiesow-Knudsen said.
While Wisaal says he’d like to see the Afghans come here, he also acknowledges the importance of the federal government to properly vet any newcomers.
“I think we should welcome them, but we should welcome the good people,” Wisaal said.
Wisaal says people in Sioux Falls embraced his arrival nearly twenty years ago, and he hopes that one day, other Afghan evacuees will feel that same kind of welcome.
“We are blessed by God to be in this country,” Wisaal said.
Wisaal takes donations at his Marion Road restaurant for the people of Afghanistan, in exchange for a sample of his cookie bread.