Gratitude in the Form of Uncertainty
August 10, 2022
Rick "Ozzie" Nelson
Nearly one year ago, the United States evacuated Afghanistan following two decades of war, leaving our Afghan allies alone to face the Taliban and remnants of al Qaeda. Many Afghans fled their country, hoping to escape the violence at home, and set their sights and hopes on a future in the United States.
Since then, nearly 100,000 Afghan evacuees have resettled in the United States. They are moving into homes, educating their children in American schools, and integrating their families into local communities. Yet they wait for the United States Government to provide them clarity regarding their future in America.
The Council on National Security and Immigration has called for an Afghan Adjustment Act to provide Afghan evacuees with certainty and stability. This week, Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate introduced this needed legislation. Afghan allies have earned the opportunity to remain in the United States and obtain legal permanent resident status. Most risked their lives to assist U.S. military and diplomatic personnel in efforts to defeat al Qaeda and the Taliban. In addition to many proving their commitment on the battlefield, all have undergone a diligent vetting process, including biometric and biographic checks, prior to arrival in the United States. Arguably, no cohort of parolees has risked so much and been vetted so rigorously.
Most Afghan evacuees came to the U.S. through the humanitarian parole program and are already halfway through their two-year grant of parole. They are currently trying to acquire permanent status in America, but with inadequate and heavily backlogged asylum and Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) processing, their opportunities are limited. Failing to address the uncertainty these allies and evacuees face not only betrays our commitments, but also could disincentivize other potential allies from cooperating with U.S. forces in future conflicts, counter to U.S. interests and national security.
Acting to support our Afghan allies demonstrates to future military and diplomatic partners that our country does not abandon its allies as the exigency for cooperation wanes. By passing the Afghan Adjustment Act, Democrats and Republicans in Congress can send a strong, clear message to America’s current and future partners and allies that our nation does not abandon its friends.
Nassir Ahmad, an Afghan refugee to the United States in 2014 who provides support to evacuees, recently told Military.com that the top concern he hears from evacuated Afghans is whether the United States will let them stay and what their future could possibly look like.
"They don't know if they're going to be here for two years and then the United States government will kick them out or will extend parole for another two years," Ahmad told reporter Rebecca Kheel. "They don't know nothing, and that makes them struggle and that makes them think and overthink.”
The path forward is clear. Congress must end the uncertainty and pass the Afghan Adjustment Act. Providing Afghan evacuees with a path to legal permanent residence in the U.S. is undeniably the right and just response to honor the sacrifices of these individuals and their families.