Last fall, tens of thousands of Afghan refugees waited hopefully for the outgoing Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act and finally provide them a permanent future in the United States. Congress did nothing, and our community continues to wait for an answer that seems. America brought us here when they evacuated us from Kabul in August 2021.
Why won’t they give us long-term security now?
The situation in my home country of Afghanistan has grown increasingly dire since the fall of Kabul. The Taliban control large swaths of the country, and the Islamic State has established a presence in areas that previously felt safe. Millions of girls and young women have been forced out of school, and many women can no longer work outside the home. They can’t even be seen in public or travel without a male escort. There are urgent needs for food and humanitarian aid.
Here, in the United States, 76,000 evacuees thought they had reached safety. But the two-year temporary legal status they were given expires in September. And then what? How can you start to think about the future when you’re suspended in limbo, waiting to see if you’ll be sent back to oppression or death? It’s been almost two years and the U.S. Congress can’t manage to implement a plan–even though a plan exists.
The Afghan Adjustment Act, introduced last August, was a straightforward bipartisan solution, modeled on successful policies used to help previous refugees fleeing Vietnam and Cuba. It would have given Afghan evacuees the ability to get a green card. All applicants would be carefully vetted and tracked by the Department of Homeland Security. Yet despite being co-sponsored by five Republicans in the Senate, and being strongly supported by three out of four Americans, the proposal died. Groups like Human Rights Watch called this “a moral and legal failure.”
No one wants to return to a near-certain death at the hands of violent extremists. In Afghanistan, the Taliban are conducting a silent war, killing thousands of people in the provinces. Only with green cards can Afghan evacuees petition to bring their at-risk family members to America. And what about those who helped the U.S. government and military in Afghanistan over the past 25 years? For them, the future is death. Anyone who is forced to return to Afghanistan once their status here runs out will face the same fate.
The U.S. has a long history of granting refugee status to those fleeing violence and oppression. At this very moment, the American government provides Ukrainians with an expedited process to settle down here. Why hasn’t the Biden administration done the same for Afghans? There are still hundreds of Special Immigrant Visa applicants waiting for their visa process, who have been in limbo for years. There’s a high level of risk for them in Afghanistan and while they wait for their cases to be processed. The U.S. government needs to expedite these pending cases to help save their lives.
A new version of the Afghan Adjustment Act was recently introduced, with an updated security protocol for vetting applicants. It has bipartisan support. It’s passage would be a win for both parties—demonstrating that Republicans and Democrats can unite around long-standing American values. It is time for a commitment that provides a true new beginning for Afghan refugees.
We made a promise to people who risked their lives for our troops; we’ve got to keep it.
Kawser Amine is a women’s rights Advocate and former Athlete, Sports Philanthropist who immigrated to the U.S. from Afghanistan in 2019. Amine is a Founder/CEO of Women’s Solidarity for Peace and Leadership.