‘The U.S. made a promise’: Advocates urge passage of permanent relief for Afghan evacuees

Human Rights First said that among the speakers at Monday’s rally was “Lucky,” a former Afghan translator who survived numerous blasts while aiding U.S. military. Now an American thanks to a special visa, he urged lawmakers to extend that same kind of permanent relief to other vulnerable people.

“I served with U.S. forces in Afghanistan and arrived in the United States on a Special Immigrant Visa in 2017. They call me Lucky because I’ve gotten blown up twice and I still have all my fingers and toes,” he said Monday. “I’m here today to ask Congress for their help. We need to pass an Afghan Adjustment Act so that my new friends and neighbors can have the American dream I am enjoying today.”

Refugee resettlement agency HIAS said last year that there is precedent for passage of an Afghan Adjustment Act, following Congress’ passage of similar legislation following “several U.S.-involved conflicts or humanitarian crises in the past.”

“Three noteworthy examples occurred following Fidel Castro’s rise to power in Cuba, after America’s withdrawal from Vietnam, and following U.S. military actions in Iraq – Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom,” the organization said in a fact sheet. “After these conflicts, Congress passed adjustment acts that granted Cubans, people from Southeast Asia, and Iraqis who had entered the U.S. as non-immigrants or parolees the opportunity to adjust to permanent status.”

While Afghan refugees could in theory apply for asylum, that system “is plagued” by a massive backlog, CBS News reported late last month.

HIAS said the legislation “allows certain Afghan evacuees to apply for permanent status after one year of being paroled into the country. It relieves the immediate burden on the SIV process—which currently has over 18,000 cases in the backlog—and asylum process—which currently has over 1 million cases in the backlog—and prevents Afghans paroled in the U.S. from losing their jobs or being deported while their applications for these statuses are pending.”

Afghan-American Foundation board member Nadia Hashimi said during Monday’s rally that tens of thousands of these evacuees are children. Lack of permanent relief could also spark a new wave of family separation, should any families welcome U.S.-born children but their parents continue to lack permanent status. “Having lost their homeland, and their homes, we must ensure these children step into their new lives feeling stable, welcoming ground beneath their feet,” Hashimi said on Monday.

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service has created an online tool for advocates to send messages in support of the legislation to members of  Congress. “To ensure that Afghans find real, lasting safety in the U.S., Congress must pass the Afghan Adjustment Act, which would allow Afghan humanitarian parolees to seek legal permanent residence in the U.S.,” the tool page said.

“The U.S. made a promise of protection to U.S.-affiliated and at-risk Afghans—that promise can not have an expiration date,” LIRS President Krish O’Mara Vignarajah said. Click here to tell your U.S. senators and House member to pass this vital legislation.

RELATED: Tens of thousands of Afghan allies are resettled throughout U.S. but still lack permanent relief

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