In August 2021, the Biden administration completed the long-awaited withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, ending our 20-year war. While withdrawal was necessary and overdue, doing so came with serious repercussions, especially for Afghans still in the country.
In the aftermath, the U.S. welcomed 76,000 Afghans via humanitarian parole, a fast-track system that allows them to live and work in the U.S. for two years. Other nations also welcomed refugees as the Taliban seized control. Unlike an immigrant visa or refugee program, humanitarian parole in the U.S. does not lead to permanent residency. Everyone who was welcomed as part of our withdrawal will soon be in the nightmare that is immigration limbo as their temporary legal status will soon expire.
Despite being thoroughly vetted by Homeland Security, Afghan refugees still have to apply for asylum, a largely redundant and overly onerous process that takes years and requires extensive paperwork, in order to stay in the U.S. permanently. To address this looming crisis, Daily Kos joined military, immigration, and foreign policy partners last August to push for the Afghan Adjustment Act, legislation that will create a streamlined process, allowing these displaced Afghans to apply for permanent legal residency.
Despite bipartisan support and the clear moral imperative for the Afghan Adjustment Act, the bill was reportedly torpedoed by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley in 2022. Without swift action, more than 70,000 Afghan refugees living in the United States are now in imminent danger of losing their legal status this year.
Republican Chuck Grassley reportedly blocks inclusion of Afghan allies bill in omnibus
There's no time to waste. Help ensure our Afghan allies can enjoy a permanent future in the United States. Sign and send a petition to Congress: We still need the Afghan Adjustment Act.
The Afghans who resettled in the U.S. are our allies, people who worked for the U.S. government in Afghanistan and their families, whose lives are in danger under the Taliban government. We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to them for the ways they supported U.S. forces for almost 20 years, often at great personal risk.
U.S.-trained Afghan Air Force Col. Salim Faqiri, for example, flew American-made Black Hawk helicopters, and played a key part in helping transport elite special forces to trouble spots around the country. He and his team were still flying missions after U.S. forces retreated.
"The concern was not only to save the lives of his pilots, but to keep the Black Hawk helicopters and the only Afghans who knew how to fly them out of Taliban hands. For Faqiri, the decision to flee was jarring, after spending his adult life fighting. 'We did it for 20 years and in 24 hours everything's opposite and instead of helping to fight, everybody was getting out,' he says."
And last year, the Texas Tribune wrote about “Lucky,” a former Afghan translator who received a special visa after surviving numerous blasts while aiding the U.S. military. “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.
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The Afghan Adjustment Act will create a streamlined process, allowing displaced Afghans to apply for permanent legal residency. It improves the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) process by broadening eligibility to include groups that worked alongside American forces in Afghanistan, and will also establish a task force to develop and implement a strategy for supporting Afghans outside of the United States.
Part of the reason Grassley's xenophobic nonsense was particularly insulting is because of what Afghans go through before they ever set foot on U.S. soil. Intelligence, law enforcement, and counterterrorism agencies conduct multilayered screening and security vetting processes before they arrive in the U.S. and again once they arrive in America.
Under the Afghan Adjustment Act, a third screening is required before permanent status can be granted. If someone fails to pass a screening, that individual and their family will either be barred entry or subject to deportation from the U.S.
There is precedent for this legislation. National Immigration Forum details several instances where Congress passed similar legislation in the wake of other U.S.-involved conflicts and humanitarian crises, including the Cuban Revolution, America’s withdrawal from Vietnam, and both military actions in Iraq. "After these conflicts, Congress passed via legislation 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 [lawful permanent resident] status," National Immigration Forum reported.
You shouldn't have to risk everything to have the opportunity to live and thrive in the U.S. The United States has the ability to help refugees excel in our communities, which in turn makes our communities stronger and more prosperous. Moreover, we still have a moral responsibility to help the Afghan people recover and adjust both domestically and abroad. Military withdrawal does not mean the U.S. can now disengage altogether. The mission is not complete.
Afghans are our neighbors, coworkers, teachers, and friends. They make invaluable contributions to our country and our communities, and are integral members of our society. No one should face the very real possibility of being torn away from everything they have built and everything they love, especially those who put themselves in harm's way on behalf of our mission.
The simple reality is that not taking care of our allies will likely hurt our ability to form similar relationships in the future. And without allies—interpreters, fixers, guides, and the like—our service members and diplomats will be more vulnerable. All of this is to say, we need the Afghan Adjustment Act.
I could continue because immigration is close to my heart (a story for another time), but you get the point. Sign and send a petition to Congress: We still need the Afghan Adjustment Act.