MOGC joined a coalition of faith-based organizations in sending the following letter (excerpted here) urging Congress to pass a bill that would allow for newly-arrived Afghan evacuees in the United States to have permanent legal status, rather than temporary relief. The following article was published in the March-April 2022 issue of NewsNotes.
[As faith-based organizations and leaders,] we write in support of an Afghan Adjustment Act for our new Afghan neighbors. We commend the U.S.’ various efforts, including those led by civil society groups, to live up to America’s promise to bring vulnerable Afghans to safety to the U.S. during the humanitarian evacuation from Afghanistan. Amidst a deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and cases of serious human rights breaches, we also urge you to advocate for speeding up the processing of Afghans’ applications for relief from overseas and facilitating their journey to the U.S.
Following the end of America’s longest war, over 80,000 Afghan evacuees were resettled to the U.S. in one of the largest resettlement efforts since the Vietnam War. Afghans evacuated to the U.S. include human rights advocates, educators, interpreters, and personnel that worked alongside U.S. forces and U.S.-based humanitarian organizations. As the urgent evacuations played out in real time, thousands of Afghans were granted humanitarian parole, which is typically granted for one or two years. Given the temporary nature of this relief, tens of thousands of the evacuated Afghan men, women, and children resettled in the U.S. will need to navigate complex legal issues to find more lasting protection in the U.S. We urgently call on Congress to pass an Afghan Adjustment Act and to ensure robust funding across refugee related accounts, which will keep families together and ensure this lasting protection for at-risk Afghans.
An Afghan Adjustment Act would address this unique situation by allowing certain Afghan evacuees to apply for permanent status after one year of being paroled in the country. Without an Afghan Adjustment Act, Afghan humanitarian parolees have very few options to remain in the U.S. after their parole status expires. If they worked for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, they could apply through the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program in which they will likely wait years to receive a decision or they can apply through the dysfunctional, backlogged U.S. asylum system. Neither avenue is a guarantee. In particular, the SIV program has been characterized by an unprecedented backlog in applications and cases of wrongful denials
DHS reports that 36,000 Afghan humanitarian parolees in the U.S. currently lack a clear avenue to lawful permanent residency – many of whom are Afghan women’s rights advocates, former reporters, and extended family members of Afghan U.S. military-affiliated interpreters. From DHS’ own data and on-the-ground reporting in the U.S., we know that the parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces, and nephews of adult SIV-eligible evacuees likely make up a significant portion of those without a direct path to legal permanent residency in the U.S. Given this, the threat of family separation in these cases looms large.
Guided by our faith values, we believe that immigration policies must prioritize family unity and honor the God-given dignity of each person. Each of us, through our congregations, synagogues, mosques, and places of worship, have historically played key roles in assisting refugees with housing, language, employment, and social support necessary for rapid and effective resettlement into U.S. communities.
... Across faith traditions and practices, the message is clear. Across our communities, we work hard to live out our beliefs. Now, we call upon Congress to stay true to our promises to at-risk Afghans, who have put their faith in us. Not only would an Afghan Adjustment Act realize these values, but it would also strengthen the ongoing resettlement and integration efforts we have supported.
Every day intensifies the threat of family separation and worry shared in our communities. We call for lasting protection for at-risk Afghans. The only viable solution is to return to historic precedent and adjust the humanitarian parole status of Afghans through the passage of an Afghan Adjustment Act, as the U.S. has done for other vulnerable people such as Cubans following the rise of Fidel Castro, Southeast Asians following the fall of Saigon, and Iraqis following multiple U.S. military engagements. Adjusting the status of humanitarian parolees will allow for a pathway to lawful permanent residency and lasting safety for our neighbors. As faith leaders, we join security experts, refugee resettlement agencies, Afghan Americans, women’s rights leaders, veterans groups, and legal experts in seeking passage of this legislation.
We believe Congress has a moral responsibility to act swiftly. We eagerly look forward to working with you to ensure that an Afghan Adjustment Act has bipartisan support in Congress. Thank you for your engagement and service.
Faith in action: Write to Congress asking them to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act: https://bit.ly/3C2qXup