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Press Release // Immigration and Asylum

LIRS Calls for Emergency Evacuation of Afghan Allies ahead of U.S. Withdrawal

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LIRS Staff

May 13, 2021

Contact: Timothy Young | | 443-257-6310

Washington D.C. – Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, a leading U.S. refugee resettlement organization, joined growing calls on the Biden administration to swiftly and securely evacuate over 17,000 Afghans in the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program along with their estimated 53,000 family members ahead of the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan slated for September 2021.

Having resettled and supported more than 11,000 SIV holders from Afghanistan and Iraq since Congress enacted the program in 2009, LIRS advocated in a letter to the White House that evacuation be implemented well before the withdraw date, given Taliban territorial gains and the precipitous targeting of American-affiliated Afghans, and that a Special Envoy be appointed to spearhead the effort.

The following is a statement by Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service:

“The window is quickly closing to protect Afghan allies who have risked everything on behalf of America’s mission, including the safety of their own families. To truly honor those who have undoubtedly saved American lives, we must keep our word by saving theirs. Bold leadership is required to meet this moment, and that must include careful consideration of emergency evacuation options.

The risk to our allies’ safety is imminent and growing. Taliban gains in the country underscore the extent to which U.S.-affiliated interpreters, drivers, advisors, support staff, and their families are increasingly in danger of targeted attacks. The simple and urgent truth is that, in the face of an emboldened enemy, emergency evacuation measures cannot wait until full U.S. military withdrawal in September.

Such an evacuation is well within historical precedent. In 1975, the Ford administration evacuated approximately 130,000 Vietnamese refugees to the U.S. via Guam for initial screening before departure to reception centers in the U.S. In 1996, Operation Pacific Haven similarly airlifted 6,600 Iraqi Kurds to the U.S. island territory. Finally, in 1999, the U.S. evacuated 20,000 Kosovar Albanians to Fort Dix, New Jersey, where their eligibility for refugee status was determined.

Welcoming them to America is the right and moral course of action, but the benefits of doing so extend well beyond humanitarian leadership. These courageous and resilient individuals, like so many before them, will also go on to become essential workers, business owners, community leaders, and cherished neighbors. As a refugee resettlement organization, we stand ready to extend a warm welcome fitting of the tremendous sacrifices our allies have made.”

Read the full letter to the Biden administration

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