DENVER — After months of working to get here through tough travel in several counties, Afghan interpreter Ahmad Siddiqi and his family arrived in Colorado Tuesday night to a large welcoming party.
For about three months, Scott Henkel and his wife, Broomfield City Councilwoman Heidi Henkel, have worked to help Siddiqi and his family escape Afghanistan and bring them to Colorado.
Scott Henkel and Siddiqi went on more than 400 missions together in 2006 and 2007, and Siddiqi had been waiting since 2005 for a visa to come to the United States. He sent a message to Henkel as the Taliban started to take over Afghanistan late this summer pleading for help getting his family out of the country.
The Henkels got in touch with Reps. Joe Neguse and Jason Crow, who have been among the members of Congress leading the way in bringing Afghan interpreters and others with Special Immigrant visas to the U.S., and they were among those who greeted Siddiqi, his wife and four children at the airport Tuesday night.
“I’m feeling emotional,” Siddiqi said. “It’s leaving a family and joining a family. … We’re glad we have a home to come to. When your house is destroyed, you always see a backup and that is the case. We are very glad to call it home.”
The Siddiqi family will be neighbors in Broomfield with the Henkels and will be moving into a house down the street.
“It made everything real. Up until now, it’s been concepts, it’s been video chats, it’s been phone calls. And it’s been a ride,” Scott Henkel said after finally greeting his friend. “We started in a place of complete desperation and worry. Now, I have my arms around them and it’s like he’s really here. This is a real thing now. He’s my neighbor.”
Heidi Henkel was tearful in describing the Siddiqis’ arrival.
“Knowing that the Siddiqi family is here and safe and loved — not only loved, but overtly welcomed in Colorado – they’re going to continue to feel the love for weeks, months and years,” she said.
Crow said he and others had specifically asked the State Department to get the Siddiqi family evacuated from Kabul and to safety here in the U.S. The family made it to the Kabul airport, then traveled to Qatar, Italy and New Jersey before coming to Colorado.
“These are people, Afghans, to whom our country and so many Coloradans owe a great debt of gratitude. So, we are here – it’s a very emotional moment for many veterans,” said Crow, a former Army Ranger who served in Afghanistan. “…We couldn’t have done our job without them. They live with us, served with us, fought with us. They provide protection to us and so many Americans came home and are safe today with their families because of their service to our country.”
Siddiqi said he and his family were most excited to see their new house in their new home of Colorado.
“We completed the mission. Not just me – a lot of people,” Siddiqi said. “For these kids to be in Colorado — I did something. They’re going to be fine for the rest of their lives.”
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