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News // Refugee Resettlement

Veterans and Advocates Call on Congress to Protect Afghan Refugees

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LIRS Staff

February 15, 2022

Washington, D.C.— Today, on the eve of the six-month anniversary of the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban, a group of military veterans and Afghan allies called on Congress to take immediate action to support refugees by passing the Afghan Adjustment Act. The group, organized by the Evacuate Our Allies coalition, met on Capitol Hill to also call on the Biden administration to ensure Afghans under threat in the country from the Taliban are evacuated as soon as possible. The Veterans emphasized their shared service and sacrifice throughout America’s longest war, while refugee advocates spoke to the importance of lasting safety and stability in their successful resettlement.

“Tens of thousands of evacuees are children bright with hope, some of them with siblings born on American soil,” said Nadia Hashimi, Afghan-American pediatriciannovelist, and board member of the Afghan-American Foundation. “Having lost their homeland and their homes, we must ensure these children step into their new lives feeling the stable, welcoming ground beneath their feet.”

“Today, I call on Republicans and Democrats to address the plight of our Afghan allies with the seriousness it demands. If you’ve ever said that you stand with the troops, then you must stand with us on this,” said Shawn VanDiver, Navy Veteran and Founder of #AfghanEvac. “There is no issue that unites veterans across this country quite like standing by those who stood by us and we expect our representatives to follow suit, ensuring we honor the commitments we’ve made.”

“Women played a critical role in fighting for equality in Afghanistan. Our work forced us to flee and like many Afghans, we have been through hell the last couple of months. AAA is the sole pathway to safety and a future,” said Helal Massomi, Afghan Women’s Rights Advocate and Evacuee. “Legal pathways like the Special Immigrant Visa program help Afghans who directly worked with the U.S. government. However, those Afghans who fought for the same values, especially women’s rights advocates, do not qualify. For us, the AAA is an important milestone in fulfilling the U.S. government’s promise to support their allies, including allies in human rights.”

“I served with U.S. forces in Afghanistan and arrived in the United States on a Special Immigrant Visa in 2017. They call me Lucky because I’ve gotten blown up twice and I still have all my fingers and toes,” said “Lucky,” an Afghan Interpreter and Special Immigrant Visa recipient. “I’m here today to ask Congress for their help. We need to pass an Afghan Adjustment Act so that my new friends and neighbors can have the American dream I am enjoying today.”

“Veterans have suffered a profound moral injury. We best heal from it by helping the Afghans who now find themselves as our newest neighbors,” said Matt Zeller of Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America. “Congress can best help us help them by passing the AAA.”

“These Afghans believed in us, fought beside us, bled with us, and sometimes died for us,” said Mike Jason, Veteran and Executive Director of AlliedAirlift21. “The Afghan Adjustment Act is about making sure our friends and allies, who have sacrificed so much, have a chance to restart their lives with confidence, dignity, and honor.”

“The U.S. made a promise of protection to U.S.-affiliated and at-risk Afghans – that promise can not have an expiration date,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. “It is incumbent upon Congress to provide long-term stability to the tens of thousands of Afghan evacuees lacking a direct pathway to permanent residency. Anything less would represent a mission unfinished and a promise unfulfilled.”

As a result of the United States’ hurried evacuation, the vast majority of Afghan evacuees entered the United States with humanitarian parole. This tenuous, short-term status does not confer a direct pathway to becoming lawful permanent residents.

The Afghan Adjustment Act would allow Afghans arriving with humanitarian parole who were evacuated from Afghanistan to have an opportunity to apply to become lawful permanent residents and a pathway to permanent status. This is critical to our new neighbors’ integration in their new homes and strengthens our communities.

To view a recording of our press conference, please use this link:

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