WASHINGTON – As the one-year anniversary of the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan nears, members of the House of Representatives yesterday joined United States senators in introducing the Afghan Adjustment Act.
Today, Evacuate Our Allies hosted a press conference where veterans, refugee advocates, Afghan-American leaders, and resettled Afghans urged Congress to pass this bipartisan, bicameral legislation.
The coalition thanked Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Peter Meijer (R-MI), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA), Jason Crow (D-CO), Fred Upton (R-MI), and Scott Peters (D-CA) for spearheading the introduction of this legislation in the House, and Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chris Coons (D-DE), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) for leading the effort to introduce it in the Senate.
Chris Purdy, director of Veterans for American Ideals and the event’s moderator, said: “This bill lights the torch of welcome and it is our sincerest desire that it gives Afghans renewed hope in the American promise. To those Afghans still waiting, the veteran community wants you to know: we have not forgotten you. We will never forget you. And we will spend every day making sure this bill becomes law and America gives you the welcome you deserve.”
Andrew Sullivan, veteran and legislative director at With Honor, said: “The U.S. mission in Afghanistan depended on brave Afghans serving as interpreters, democracy advocates, and women’s rights advocates – they were vital to the twenty-year mission. But despite their valiant and dutiful service to America, many Afghans arrived in the U.S. during last year’s evacuation with no clear path to stable residency. The Afghan Adjustment Act fixes that problem and ensures America keeps its promise to its Afghan allies. We owe it to these allies to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act as soon as possible.”
Lucky (pseudonym), Afghan interpreter and Special Immigrant Visa recipient, said: “Today I run and own a market. I have four employees, all Afghans. In the next few weeks, I will be hiring ten more. I was able to build a good life in the United States because, as an SIV, my immigration status is stable. The Afghan friends and family who came here last year are in a very bad situation. They are going through so much stress about the future of their families and children, because they’re here on temporary parole. It’s only for a year or two, and that makes it so hard to start a new life. Fixing that problem is what the Afghan Adjustment Act will do.”
Brittany Dymond, associate director for National Legislative Service at the VFW said: “Too many Afghans never made it to the United States, and those who did have faced many difficulties. Resources are scarce and bureaucratic roadblocks face them on a daily basis. Thousands of VFW members worked side by side with our Afghan allies during their deployment overseas. Now it is time we help those same comrades-in-arms who seek new lives in our great nation. The AAA is the first step in helping these brave Afghans assimilate in the U.S. It will help them on the path to the American dream. We must quickly pass this legislation to make sure every Afghan counts, just like every veteran counts.”
Alex Plitsas, veteran and COO at Human First, said: “The Afghan Adjustment Act is a step in the right direction and honors our nation’s commitment to those who stood by us during twenty years of war. This legislation will create a pathway for those who were brought over during last year’s airlift, provide additional security vetting, and offer instructions to executive departments and agencies for processing those left behind. It addresses the concerns of all stakeholders and has strong bipartisan support.”
Safi Rauf, Afghan-American veteran and president and founder of Human First, said: “One simple thing: not passing the Afghan Adjustment Act is simply not an option. Afghans have seen a glimpse of freedom, and we will do everything we can to ensure it is maintained. As an Afghan American and a Navy veteran, it’s heartening to see the overwhelming support for this legislation that we are seeing today.”
Susannah Cunningham, advocacy manager at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said: “This week, when Democrats and Republicans introduced the Afghan Adjustment Act, legislators affirmed America’s promise to our Afghan allies. Hopefully, this Act will ease their burden and offer a bit of certainty after so much loss, and open a crack into a future that looks just a little more promising today.”
Lawrence Montreuil, national legislative director at The American Legion said, “On behalf of our 1.8 million members, we are proud to support this bill to assist our Afghan allies and friends. It will ensure we keep our promises as a country. We have a moral obligation to save our Afghan allies and their countrymen. We hope to see Congress move quickly to pass this important legislation.”
Helal Massomi, a 27-year old Afghan women’s right activist, who was evacuated to the United States last summer, said: “Passing the Afghan Adjustment Act would be one step towards fulfilling one of the many promises the U.S. has made to their allies, specially Afghan women. For people like myself, the Afghan Adjustment Act is the sole pathway to safety and a future.”
Matt Zeller, senior advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said: “A year has passed since Afghanistan fell to the Taliban. More than three hundred thousand Afghan wartime allies – interpreters & their families – remain left behind. They need our help. IAVA will not abandon them. The Afghan Adjustment Act is a vital piece of legislation because it will fix the structural flaws in the SIV program and provide a pathway to secure residency for those Afghans needing protection. We will fight to ensure that our country keeps its promise to those who served us. IAVA proudly endorses the AAA and urges Congress to pass it as soon as possible.”
Shawn VanDiver, veteran and founder of AfghanEvac, said: “Voting for the Afghan Adjustment Act is voting for American veterans. It is voting for American values. It is voting to uphold America’s vow to stand with those who have stood with us. Today, our message to Congress is this: it’s time to do your part to help America lift up its allies.”
Mohammed Naeem, an Afghan-American who serves as senior manager for strategy and partnerships in the Center for Inclusion and Belonging at the American Immigration Council, said: “Passing the Afghan Adjustment Act is quite simply a pathway towards belonging in America. This act not only honors the inherent dignity of our Afghan friends — but also speaks to one of America’s most cherished values: loyalty to our word. And the American public has already spoken. Their support can be measured in the remarkable volume of generosity and willingness to resettle over 80,000 of our Afghan friends. All across this country, extraordinary Americans have opened their hearts and their homes. Now it is up to our elected members of Congress to legislate by way of those values, and deliver the votes for expedited passage of the Afghan Adjustment Act.”
As a result of the U.S. military’s rushed withdrawal from Afghanistan, the vast majority of resettled Afghans were admitted to this country under “humanitarian parole,” a temporary status that does not confer a direct pathway to lawful permanent residence.
The Afghan Adjustment Act will help put thousands of our Afghan allies on a pathway to lawful permanent residence in the United States, as the U.S. has done for many other communities affected by U.S. foreign policies.
The Afghan Adjustment Act streamlines the immigration process for many Afghan nationals, especially those who supported the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. It will extend Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) status to additional at-risk Afghans. The act also supports Afghan nationals outside the United States who meet the requirements for SIV status or U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) referrals.
Evacuate Our Allies, its constituent organizations, and many other individuals and groups urge Congress to pass and the President to sign the Afghan Adjustment Act so Afghans who have were resettled the United States can continue to build their lives in safety and security as our colleagues, friends and new members of our American family.
To watch a recording of the event: https://twitter.com/EvacOurAllies/status/1557415697034235904