Bipartisan legislation would also improve and update the Special Immigrant Visa process for Afghans who served alongside U.S. service members
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chris Coons (D-DE), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) along with Representatives Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) reintroduced the Afghan Adjustment Act, bipartisan legislation to allow Afghans who sought refuge in the United States to apply for permanent legal residency after undergoing additional vetting. 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 face severe backlogs and long processing times. Allowing Afghan allies to apply for permanent legal residency will help provide certainty as they build their lives in the United States.
“Giving our Afghan allies a chance to apply for legal status is the right and necessary thing to do,” said Klobuchar. “This bipartisan legislation will help provide Afghans who have sacrificed so much for our country with the legal certainty they deserve as they rebuild their lives. I will continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to advance this bipartisan legislation and provide Afghans who sought refuge in the U.S. with the opportunity for a stable future in their new home.”
“It is imperative that America assist those Afghans who supported our country and that fled the oppressive regime of the Taliban. We must let the world know that we do not abandon those who aid America. This bill works toward that goal while ensuring strong vetting to protect America’s own security,” said Graham.
“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 Afghan Adjustment Act is a first step towards keeping our word as a nation and honoring that debt. This bipartisan legislation would 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, and after failing to pass this bill last year, we should take it up and pass it swiftly now. Congress has a track record of passing similar legislation on humanitarian grounds, and it is shameful that we have not done so yet.”
“The withdrawal from Afghanistan was a dark day in American history. The rushed and chaotic evacuation from Kabul resulted in the deaths of American servicemembers and stranded thousands of our Afghan allies behind enemy lines. For two decades, countless Afghans stood by our servicemembers and risked their lives and their families’ lives to support our troops in Afghanistan. Now, nearly two years since the withdrawal, Afghans, who escaped to the U.S., face uncertainty as their original parole statuses are set to expire soon. This legislation establishes a pathway for our Afghan partners to begin a new life while also establishing a critical vetting process to reduce threats to our national security,” said Moran.
“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.
“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,” said Murkowski.
“The U.S. made a promise to our Afghan allies to keep them safe – tens of thousands of whom have now made homes in America. Afghans who came to the U.S. during the evacuation and relocation deserve the opportunity to apply for permanent status – that’s why the Afghan Adjustment Act is so important,” said Shaheen. “As a leader who’s fought to protect the rights and safety of Afghan women and strengthen the Special Immigrant Visa process to aid Afghan allies, I remain committed to ensuring the U.S. upholds its duty to the Afghan people,” said Shaheen.
“For 20 years, many Afghans risked their lives to stand alongside our service members and diplomats during America’s longest war. The Afghan Adjustment Act honors our commitment to our Afghan allies, and provides them with a pathway to safety and certainty in the United States,” said Durbin.
“As a Veteran I feel it is our responsibility to honor our commitments and to never forget our Afghan allies who put their lives on the line for Americans,” said Miller-Meeks. “The Afghan Adjustment Act protects our Afghan allies and alleviates the logistical obstacles that our allies face when working toward a lawful pathway to permanent resident status.”
“Tens of thousands of Afghan allies jeopardized their lives and the lives of their families to help our country. They served as interpreters and guides that was vital to our mission and in return, we promised to protect them. To be a friend should not be fatal,” said Blumenauer. “The Taliban is back in control of Afghanistan, and they have long memories. The Afghan Adjustment Act is more critical than ever to provide a pathway to legal permanent status to protect our allies and for our country—these are people with real talents that can continue to help us.”
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.
Modeled after bipartisan bills that Congress has passed in the wake of other humanitarian crises and the Vietnam War, the Afghan Adjustment Act would:
- Allow Afghans on humanitarian status who submit to additional vetting–including an in-person interview–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 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 many groups including The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Blue Star Families, and more.