Religious, human rights and veterans groups are stepping up pressure on Congress to provide a pathway to legal and permanent status for tens of thousands of Afghan refugees evacuated to the United States last year.
Most of those who escaped the fall of Afghanistan in August were sequestered on US military bases under humanitarian parole status, a short-term designation that grants no access to government services and resettlement programs. normally enjoyed by other refugees.
As a result, more than 50,000 Afghan evacuees have since been resettled in communities across the country at the mercy of the lagging asylum system, which offers no guarantee of permanent legal status.
“It leaves them in a legal limbo. and if a person is denied asylum, they are subject to deportation,â said Jenny Yang, senior vice president of advocacy and policy for World Relief, a global Christian humanitarian organization and one of nine refugee resettlement agencies in the United States.
World Relief and many other organizations have recently stepped up the pace of lobbying and public relations campaigns aimed at convincing Congress to introduce and pass the Afghan Adjustment Act to make refugees eligible for benefits and legal residency. permed.
âOur concern is that Congress and the (Biden) administration finish the jobâ started by those who evacuated Afghan allies to the United States, Yang said. “They have to muster the political will to make it happen.”
It was a message echoed late last week by the Evangelical Immigration Table, which sent a letter signed by 900 Christian leaders to members of Congress advocating for permanent legal status for Afghan refugees.
“Without such changes to the law, the majority of Afghans our government resettles using parole authority could end up with perpetual ‘temporary’ status that must be renewed indefinitely, at significant cost, without the ability to seek permanent status that would affirm that they fully belong to this country,â the letter stated.
The resulting state of uncertainty for Afghans would mirror that of the so-called Dreamers, immigrants smuggled into the country as children and living in constant fear of deportation if the Deferred Action Program for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, was revoked.
The letter ended by imploring lawmakers are also granting lawful permanent residency to DACA recipients as well as Afghan allies in the country under parole status.
âIt is both in the interest of these immigrant neighbors and in the interest of our society as a whole that our nation formally affirm what we as Christians are anxious to convey to these neighbors: that they are welcome here, that they belong and that the United States is now their home, just as it is ours.
Jesse Rincones, executive director of the Texas Hispanic Baptist Convention, added a patriotic accent by supporting the Afghan Adjustment Act.
âThousands of Afghans risked their lives to serve our country. It would be a travesty to leave them in a state of perpetual insecurity with a âtemporaryâ status. A pathway to permanent status is the right response to their sacrifice,â he said in comments accompanying the legislative appeal.
Human Rights First reported that a coalition of military veterans and Afghan allies have taken up the cause to ensure refugees find refuge in the United States.
“Today, I call on Republicans and Democrats to address the plight of our Afghan allies with the seriousness it demands. If you’ve ever said you support the troops, then you need to support us on this. “, said Shawn VanDiver, a Navy veteran and founder of #AfghanEvac. “There is no issue that unites veterans across the country like standing with those who have supported us, and we expect our representatives to do the same, ensuring that we honor the commitments we have made.
The best way Congress can show his support for military personnel is to support the Afghan Adjustment Act, said Matt Zeller of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
“Veterans suffered profound moral harm,” he said. “We will heal better by helping the Afghans who now find themselves as our new neighbours.”
The promise made by the United States to protect the security of its Afghan allies must be kept, said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.
âCongress has a responsibility to provide long-term stability to the tens of thousands of Afghan evacuees who have no direct path to permanent residency. Anything less would represent an unfinished business and a broken promise.
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This agency has already resettled 600 Afghan refugees in Houston