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Afghan allies’ fate at risk as U.S. Senate border bill faces opposition

AT News

KABUL – In a pivotal moment on Capitol Hill, an ongoing opposition to the U.S. Senate’s $118 billion border bill is threatening crucial assistance for Afghans who stood shoulder to shoulder with American troops during the nation’s longest war.

Amidst provisions addressing border security, aid to key U.S. allies, lies an opportunity for the United States to honor its commitment to Afghans who risked their lives assisting U.S. forces. Nestled within the expansive legislation is a provision offering a long-awaited pathway to residency for tens of thousands of Afghan refugees airlifted to the U.S. following the tumultuous withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021.

However, the fate of this lifeline hangs in the balance as disagreements over unrelated aspects of the bill stall progress. Democratic voices, notably members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, oppose what they perceive as extreme, far-right border policies within the legislation, which they argue do little to address the nation’s broken immigration system.

Conversely, conservatives contend that the bill lacks sufficient measures to curb daily migrant crossings at the southern border, underscoring the complex and polarizing nature of the debate.

Should the bill falter, it would mark another setback for the over 76,000 Afghans currently residing in the U.S., caught in immigration limbo due to years of congressional inaction.

Efforts to secure a standalone bill, the Afghan Adjustment Act, have faced numerous hurdles over the past three years, with staunch opposition from some Republican quarters to vetting requirements for Afghan refugees and their stranded family members in Kabul.

Despite these challenges, bipartisan collaboration on the border deal presented a glimmer of hope. Senators from both sides of the aisle, along with their staff, worked tirelessly to craft a compromise that would enable qualified Afghans to pursue U.S. citizenship, mirroring past initiatives for refugees from Cuba, Vietnam, and Iraq.

Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, a leading advocate for the effort, expressed satisfaction with the outcome, emphasizing the importance of standing by those who stood by the United States.

However, the bill’s future remains uncertain. Republican leaders in the House have dismissed it outright, casting doubt on its viability even within the Senate.

As proponents of the Afghan provision await the bill’s fate, they maintain cautious optimism. Shawn VanDiver, a Navy veteran and advocate for Afghan resettlement efforts, acknowledges the excitement among Afghan allies but stresses the need to temper expectations.

The inclusion of Afghan provisions in the package represents a step forward, yet the road ahead remains fraught with challenges. For Afghans who risked everything in support of America’s mission, the outcome of this legislative battle carries profound implications, underscoring the urgency of finding a resolution that upholds the nation’s promises to its allies.

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