Newly arrived Afghans currently face legal uncertainty as they build new lives in the United States
Legislation would also improve and update the Special Immigrant Visa process for Afghans who served alongside U.S. servicemembers. Companion legislation is led in the House by Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Peter Meijer.
WASHINGTON - U.S. 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) introduced the Afghan Adjustment Act, bipartisan, bicameral legislation allowing Afghans with temporary status that undergo additional vetting to apply for permanent legal residency. Improving these newly arrived Afghans’ legal status would provide certainty as they build new lives in the United States. Currently, Afghans who were admitted on temporary humanitarian status can only gain permanent legal status through the asylum system or Special Immigrant Visa process (SIV), which both face severe backlogs and long processing times.
The Afghan Adjustment Act would also improve and expand the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) process, including by broadening SIV eligibility to include groups that worked alongside American forces such as the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command and the Female Tactical Teams of Afghanistan. Companion legislation is being led in the House of Representatives by Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Peter Meijer (R-MI).
“Giving our Afghan allies a chance to apply for permanent legal status is the right and necessary thing to do,” said Klobuchar. “This bipartisan legislation will help provide these newly arrived Afghans who have sacrificed so much for our country with the legal certainty they deserve as they begin their lives in the U.S. It’s important to do what we can to help our Afghan friends find stability, opportunity, and community in their new home.”
“I look forward to working with my colleagues in a bipartisan fashion to deal with the Afghan parolee problem in a manner that enhances our national security and keeps our commitment to those who helped us at their own peril,” said Graham. “This legislation starts us down a road of creating a strong vetting program to protect our national security while allowing for Afghans who risked their lives for America to move forward in the process, and while determining what to do with other parolees we brought to the U.S. after our hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan. Most have no place to go, and it is imperative that we protect our own nation while also not abandoning those who were there for us in the fight. This is a complicated endeavor, and we will seek input from our colleagues as we try to move forward.”
“We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the Afghan people for the ways they supported U.S. forces for almost 20 years, often at great personal risk,” said Coons. “The introduction of the Afghan Adjustment Act is a first step towards keeping our word as a nation and honoring that debt. This bipartisan legislation will provide a pathway to lawful permanent status for certain Afghan civilians, offering them a way out of legal limbo and the looming threat of deportation with great risk to their personal safety. Congress has a track record of passing similar legislation on humanitarian grounds, and we must swiftly do so again. Our Afghan partners deserve nothing less.”
“Nearly a year ago, thousands of our Afghan allies fled their homes as their country fell to the Taliban,” said Blunt. “These evacuees are people who stood by our service members, risking their safety and the safety of their loved ones, in support of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. This bill maintains a rigorous vetting process while providing an opportunity for Afghan refugees to rebuild their lives in America. I urge our colleagues to support this bipartisan effort to help those who helped us.”
“This measure will provide safe haven for Afghans fleeing Taliban persecution. Our bipartisan bill fulfills a moral obligation to the men and women who sacrificed in support of the U.S. mission helping American troops and diplomats. These Afghan allies worked as journalists, translators, non-profit workers, guards, and interpreters – as well as other dangerous professions that put their and their families’ lives on the line. This effort is urgent as their situation is increasingly desperate. These at-risk Afghans deserve a clear path to citizenship. I am especially proud to have authored language in the bill that will expand eligibility for the SIV program to members of the Afghan Special Forces, including the Female Tactical Teams. The idea developed from the work my office has been doing with several U.S. veterans and service members who fought alongside these Afghans and who have spent the last year trying to get them to safety. I am honored to work with them to fulfill our moral obligation to those who fought alongside us,” said Blumenthal.
“This month, we mark the one-year anniversary of the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the end of America’s longest war at nearly 20 years. During the withdrawal, and the weeks that followed, I worked diligently with my staff, and alongside our military and our federal agency partners, to urgently evacuate American citizens, vulnerable Afghans and our Afghan allies; brave individuals who risked their lives supporting our troops and mission in Afghanistan. More than 76,000 Afghan evacuees were brought the United States, many of them were given humanitarian parole – a temporary immigration status typically granted for one to two year periods. Alaska has welcomed over 100 Afghan evacuees who are now settling in as valuable members of our communities across the state,” said Murkowski. “I never supported indefinite American troop presence in Afghanistan, but I shared the concerns about the lasting negative impact that complete withdrawal would have. Those concerns have become reality as the Taliban wreaks havoc on Afghanistan, condemning millions to live under oppression, and sentencing our allies who were unable to evacuate to death. It is unlikely than Afghans brought to the United States on temporary status will be able to return to their homes in the near, mid, or even long-term future. At the same time, there are allies and vulnerable Afghans who are desperately trying to leave their crumbling nation, and who live under great risk. The United States must ensure that we keep our promises to our Afghan allies, and provide certainty for those who fled to the United States and have no place to return. I am proud to join my Senate colleagues in legislation to give innocent Afghans hope for a safer, brighter future.”
“The Afghan Adjustment Act is critical for tens of thousands of U.S.-affiliated and at-risk Afghans, many of whom are already living in the United States,” said Blumenauer. “We must keep our commitment to provide safe, legal refuge to the those who willingly put their lives on the line to support U.S. mission in Afghanistan. Congress has provided a legal adjustment process for previous wartime evacuations and humanitarian crises and should do so once again, without delay.”
“As we reflect on the last year without a U.S. presence in Afghanistan, it is clear that our mission there is not yet complete,” said Meijer. “We still have thousands of interpreters and other Afghan partners who put themselves and their loved ones at risk remaining in Afghanistan, and thousands more who were evacuated to the U.S. now facing legal uncertainty as they try to rebuild their lives. I am proud to help lead this bipartisan, bicameral effort to enhance security vetting procedures, support our allies overseas, and keep the promises we made to our Afghan partners by providing a pathway for them to obtain legal status to stay here in the United States. Our credibility with our allies and our moral standing in the world depend on the completion of this mission.”
Modeled after bipartisan bills that Congress has passed in the wake of other humanitarian crises, including the Vietnam War, the Afghan Adjustment Act would:
- Allow Afghans on humanitarian status who submit to additional vetting to apply for permanent legal status. For these Afghans, the primary options under current law to gain permanent status are through our asylum system or the burdensome SIV process;
- Expand the SIV program to include four previously omitted groups, including the Female Tactical Teams of Afghanistan, the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command, the Afghan Air Force, and the Special Mission Wing of Afghanistan;
- Establish a task force to develop and implement a strategy for supporting Afghans outside of the United States who are eligible for SIV status and require the Department of State to respond to congressional inquiries about SIV applications.
The legislation has received the endorsement of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Veterans for American Ideals, With Honor Action, Association of Wartime Allies, Church World Service, National Immigration Forum, International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), Afghans For a Better Tomorrow, Voice for Refuge Action Fund, Immigrant ARC, Afghan-American Foundation, Human Rights First, and the Advocates for Human Rights.
As the granddaughter of immigrants, Klobuchar has long been an advocate for refugees and immigrants across the world.
Last September, Klobuchar and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) urged the Biden administration to prioritize resources for women refugees evacuated from Afghanistan. Additionally, Klobuchar and Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) also encouraged the Biden administration to help Afghan journalists resettle and continue their important work.
Klobuchar led successful efforts to sign the Liberian Immigration Refugee Fairness Act into law in 2019, allowing eligible Liberians living in the United States on temporary immigration status of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) to continue living legally in the U.S. and get on a pathway to earning U.S. citizenship.