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Press Release // Immigration and Asylum

Statement – LIRS Reacts to the Biden Administration’s Lack of a Detailed Plan for the Evacuation of Afghan Allies

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LIRS Staff

July 8, 2021

Contact: Marc Soloweszyk | | 443-960-5522

Washington D.C.– Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is deeply concerned by the Biden administration’s lack of a detailed plan for the evacuation of our Afghan allies who served the U.S. mission for over two decades.

The remarks only repackaged what President Biden first vowed three weeks ago – that Afghans who helped the U.S. military were “not going to be left behind,” even as the U.S. continued accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan. However, the administration has taken little action since to ensure the safety of our allies.

On July 2, administration officials leaked an internal discussion outlining the administration’s possible plans to evacuate Afghan allies to three Central Asian countries: Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. These reports quickly generated apprehension amongst experts and advocates that allies would not be safe in neighboring countries. Further, the Biden Administration has consistently said it will only evacuate 9,000 of the 18,000 Special Immigrant Visa applicants, leaving half of our allies under threat. While President Biden noted a State Department task force is concentrated on the effort, he did not indicate inter-agency plans, despite past evacuations having heavily relied on the rapid creation of an Interagency Task Force to organize and deploy resources across departments.

President and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, offered a statement, imploring the Administration to urgently seize its legal authority to protect our Afghan allies and to provide a detailed evacuation plan:  

“The President’s failure to provide concrete details on the safe evacuation of our Afghan allies is a shameful abdication of moral responsibility.

Tangible action to evacuate all 18,000 Afghan allies and their family members to Guam or another American territory, where they can safely continue their SIV process, has yet to be seen. Any less and anywhere beyond U.S. soil only intensifies the security and humanitarian risks for both our nation and our allies. Let’s be clear; we have evacuated U.S. wartime allies in the past, and our government agencies can pursue parole authorization into U.S. territory – realities that counter President Biden’s claims this afternoon.

Biden noted himself that “speed is safety” – while our troops have safely left, our allies remain behind and in danger. We are hearing more and more reports of SIV applicants and their family members becoming victims to anti-American violence. For many, complete evacuation is a matter of life-and-death. Is abandonment the American norm for how we treat those who protected us? Are we willing to repeat the same mistakes we made in Vietnam half a century ago? Today, President Biden renewed his promise to evacuate those who protected us, but we cannot let that promise remain protracted, unmet and unspecified.”

Founded in 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is one of the largest immigration and refugee resettlement agencies in the United States. LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership working with and advocating for refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations. Through 80 years of service and advocacy, LIRS has helped over 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America.

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