The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) joined other evangelical Christian organizations on the first anniversary of the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban to call on Congress to allow Afghans evacuated to the United States to apply for permanent residency.
The ERLC and other members of the Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT) called on Senators and Representatives in an August 10 letter to approve legislation that would allow Afghans living in that country on temporary humanitarian parole to apply for permanent legal status. The United States admitted most of those who fled Afghanistan after the government’s overthrow as parolees rather than refugees, leaving them “without a direct path to permanent residency,” according to the letter.
The Afghan Adjustment Lawwhich would provide a pathway to permanent legal status after additional vetting for Afghans admitted on temporary parole, was introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives on August 9. Senators and representatives of both political parties are the original co-sponsors of the Afghan Adjustment Act.
The Taliban regained control of Afghanistan when the capital of Kabul fell on August 15, 2021. The Islamic terrorist organization, which ruled the Central Asian country from 1996 to 2001, routed the Afghan army when the United States withdrew its troops after nearly 20- year mission following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.
Afghans who supported the American effort, Christians, other religious minorities and women were particularly vulnerable as targets of the militant Islamic organization during and after its takeover.
“I can’t imagine the horror of watching your society crumble all around you and having to flee to safety with your loved ones,” said Brent Leatherwood, acting president of the ERLC, in comments written for the Baptist Press. âYet this is what so many Afghans faced a year ago.
“Unfortunately, the grief of this nightmare has been compounded by the unwillingness of our national government to fully embrace them,” he said. âMany of these people bravely served the U.S. military in Afghanistan on the assumption that we would protect them.
“Because our neighbors would undoubtedly face persecution or worse at home, we should deliver on that promise by offering them full refugee status now and giving them the opportunity to pursue a fulfilling life here in America.”
More than 79,000 Afghan nationals have arrived in this country as part of the effort to resettle vulnerable citizens of Afghanistan, including those who assisted the United States during its mission, reported the departments of the Homeland and State Security in mid-June.
These Afghans “have fled a clearly credible fear of persecution from the Taliban and therefore almost certainly meet the legal definition of a refugee”, but most “have only temporary parole and employment authorization which carries an expiry date, with no direct path to obtaining permanent residenceâ. says the EIT letter.
With “no likelihood” of a safe return to their homes “in the foreseeable future”, these Afghans “want to rebuild their lives” in this country, the EIT organizations wrote, adding: “[O]Only permanent legal status can give them “the assurance that they ‘fully belong’ to the United States.
EIT organizations have also called on Congress to ensure that the United States continues to accept Afghans who have suffered or are threatened with persecution by the Taliban.
In addition to the ERLC, other EIT organizations are the National Association of Evangelicals, World Relief, Bethany Christian Services, Council of Christian Colleges and Universities, Faith and Community Empowerment, National Latino Evangelical Coalition, and The Wesleyan Church .
EIT members urged President Biden in a letter two days after the Taliban took power last August to uphold a long-standing commitment to protect and resettle that country’s Afghan allies. They asked the administration to ensure that certain Afghans eligible for special immigrant visas because they served the United States and their immediate families be evacuated to a place of safety for processing. EIT members also called for the protection of those at risk of persecution by the Taliban.
Additionally, the ERLC joined more than 30 other organizations and nearly 40 individuals in an October letter urging the Biden administration to create a new Priority 2 refugee status category for Afghan religious minorities to speed up the process while maintaining thorough verification procedures. EIT members made a similar request in their August letter.
(EDITOR’S NOTE â Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)