US: Afghan refugees in the US face instability


So far, Congress has failed to create a path of residence for Afghans who have worked alongside U.S. troops in America’s longest war, pushing tens of thousands of refugees into poverty. Lizard fled Taliban control more than two years ago and now lives in the United States.

Some lawmakers had hoped to address Afghan immigration as part of the government’s year-end funding package. But that attempt failed, pushing the matter into the new year, when Republicans will take power in the House. The result is severe uncertainty for the refugees who are now facing an August action deadline from Congress before their parole status expires.

Nearly 76,000 Afghans who have worked with US troops since 2001 as translators, interpreters and partners have arrived in the US on military planes following a chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in August. 2021. The largest resettlement effort in the country in decades, with the promise of a pathway to life in the United States for its servicemen.

Mohammad Behzad Hakkak, 30, is among Afghans awaiting resolution, unable to work or settle down in his new community in Fairfax, Virginia, on parole. Hakkak worked as a partner in the US mission to Afghanistan as human rights defender in the now defunct Afghan government.

“We lost everything in Afghanistan” after the Taliban returned to power, he said. “And now, we don’t know about our future here.”

Over the past year, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, supported by veterans’ organizations and former military officials, has pushed Congress to pass the Afghanistan Adjustment Act, which will help people Afghanistan is not stuck without legal residency when their two-year humanitarian amnesty expires. in August 2023. It will allow qualified Afghans to apply for U.S. citizenship, as has been done for refugees in the past, including those from Cuba and Vietnam. South and Iraq.

Supporters of the proposal think it could make it to Congress after the November elections because it enjoys overwhelming bipartisan support. But they say their efforts have been thwarted by one man: Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the body that oversees matters immigration topic.

“We have never seen support for a law like this,” said Shawn Van Diver, a Navy veteran and head of .AfghanEvac, a coalition that supports Afghanistan resettlement efforts. like this and it doesn’t get passed. “I’m really annoyed that a guy from Iowa can block this.”

Grassley has argued for months that the written bill went too far to include evacuees beyond those “who have been our partners for the past 20 years,” providing a pathway to residency without need proper screening.

“First of all, those who help our country should absolutely fulfill the promise we made to them,” Grassley told The Associated Press. “There’s some disagreement about the testing process. It’s an issue and that hasn’t been resolved.”

Proponents of the law dismiss those concerns. More than 30 retired military officers, including three former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote to Congress saying the bill not only “advances the national security interests of the United States.” but also “a moral imperative.” The White House has also called for it to be approved.

Biden’s press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, said in mid-December that “it’s important to take care of our Afghan allies who have taken care of us.”

This proposal, if approved, would provide a streamlined, priority process for Afghan nationals who have supported the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. The Department of Homeland Security will adjust the status of eligible evacuees to provide them with lawful permanent resident status after they have undergone rigorous screening and screening procedures. It will also improve and expand ways of protecting those left behind and at risk in Afghanistan.

“Afghan refugees are a very high priority and have some good Republican support, but unfortunately, the Republican leadership has blocked it,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. , DN.Y., recently told reporters. “These are the people who risked their lives for our soldiers and for our country, and we should reward them as we have done in the past.”

Several congressional aides explained the bill’s delay by pointing to a seven-page letter, spaced apart, obtained by the AP news agency, which Grassley’s office sent to all 50 Republican senator in August. The memo outlines his problems with the proposal, leading to months of back-and-forth negotiations as the bill’s sponsors try to resolve them.

U.S. military and national security officials have outlined the rigorous screening process that evacuees must go through before arriving on U.S. soil. Those security checks, conducted in Europe and the Middle East, include background checks with both biographical information and voice biometrics, iris scans, fingerprints, and facial photos. .

But Republicans say the check-in system is not secure. They point to a September report from the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general that said at least two people from Afghanistan had been paroled into the country “risking national security and public safety.” local.”

As a result, mandatory face-to-face interviews for all Afghan applicants were enshrined in the bill as well as the requirement that relevant agencies report to Congress on the proposed screening procedures. output before putting them into action.

Despite ramping up the vetting process during months of negotiations, the bill was never passed the Judiciary Committee and failed to win the right to be included in the $1.7 trillion government funding bill. dollars just passed.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., was one of the main sponsors of the bill. “If this is what we do when they come to our country and we don’t have their support,” she said, “what message are we sending to the rest of the world, the who stand with our soldiers, who protect them, who provide safety for their families?”

But Klobuchar and the main Republican co-sponsor, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have pledged to bring the bill back again during a new session of Congress beginning in January.

“This is the right thing to do,” Graham, an Air Force veteran, told the Senate recently. “No other ending is acceptable to me.”

He added: “Those who were there with us in the war, who are in America, need to stay. This will be their new home.”

Most people in the United States seem to share that sentiment.

A survey from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research conducted a month after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan found that 72 percent of respondents considered giving Afghans refuge from any Any retaliation by the Taliban has been an obligation and a necessary rule for nearly 20 years. war.


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