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Refugee Advocacy Groups Prepare For Influx Of Children And Families Fleeing From Afghanistan

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Thousands of adults and kids from Afghanistan could be in Illinois soon, and U.S. immigration officials are finding some of the evacuees could be unaccompanied minors.

As CBS 2's Asal Rezaei reported Wednesday, the government on a federal level is already caring for more than 100 Afghan children who have arrived in the U.S. in the last month or so. Refugee advocacy organizations in Chicago said they are ready to help and working to do so.

"We want to be able to provide a place where they feel loved, or they feel cared for, and especially for unaccompanied migrant youth," said Karina Donayre of the Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants. "We want to be able to show that love and care and support to them."

Donayre said her organization works closely with immigrants after they have been released from immigration custody and advocate for their rights.

"We know that really up to 3,000 could end up in Illinois," she said.

The Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants is working closely with the Heartland Alliance to make sure they have housing and resources ready for any Afghan children and families.

"In August, we already saw about 30 individuals coming through Afghanistan," said Lea Tienou-Gustafson, director of refugee and immigrants community services for the Heartland Alliance. "Many of those people were family units."

The Heartland Alliance does everything from picking up refugees from the airport to helping them navigate the system, and finding the right place to live – while Interfaith is making sure those coming with different faiths are comfortable setting in.

"We link people with vital services they need - everything from employment to helping children enroll in school; securing public benefits," said Tienou-Gustafson.

"We want youth to be able to pray when they need to pray to have the resources they need, whether it's a spiritual textbook or whether that is spiritual items," added Donayre.

Advocates at the Heartland Alliance said we can expect to see some unaccompanied minors along with hundreds more Afghan refugees arriving in Chicago as early as next week.

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