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Afghan refugees’ fate in limbo amid US congress inaction

AT News

KABUL – Tens of thousands of Afghan evacuees living in the United States find themselves in a state of uncertainty two years after fleeing Afghanistan as they are lacking a permanent pathway to stay. Despite efforts by advocates to establish an “adjustment act” mirroring previous practices for wartime evacuations, the bill has repeatedly encountered roadblocks in Congress, primarily due to resistance from a minority of GOP lawmakers.

The group of Afghan evacuees, totaling around 80,000, initially arrived in the U.S. as part of the withdrawal efforts. Advocates proposed an “adjustment act” similar to past practices, which would grant permanent residency to those brought out of conflict zones by the U.S. government. Unfortunately, the bill’s advancement has been consistently thwarted, leaving Afghan evacuees and immigration advocates frustrated.

Helal Massomi, an evacuee who now serves as the Afghan policy adviser for Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, highlighted the challenges faced by Afghan arrivals whose humanitarian parole visas are expiring. Massomi emphasized that after two years of temporary status, there is still no clear path for them to apply for permanent residency. This situation raises concerns about fulfilling promises made to allies who supported the U.S. throughout the two-decade-long conflict.

In the absence of legislative progress, the Biden administration has encouraged Afghan evacuees to apply for “re-parole,” a process that allows certain populations entry into the U.S. through executive action. However, many are growing disillusioned with the ongoing uncertainty of their permanent status.

The impasse in Congress is not a result of widespread opposition but rather has been blocked twice by a single Republican senator. The latest attempt to incorporate the legislation into an annual defense policy bill was halted by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), further delaying progress.

Initially, Congress showed a strong commitment to aiding Afghan evacuees during the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. However, this support has diminished as the evacuation faded from the headlines, and Republican focus shifted toward investigations into the withdrawal’s mismanagement rather than providing a stable home for those brought to the U.S.

Despite the setbacks, advocates are determined to push for progress. Chris Purdy, head of Veterans for American Ideals, commended the resilience of civil society and the Afghan community in the U.S., emphasizing that the bill remains viable despite challenges. Frustration grows among advocates who perceive a disconnect between the rhetoric of lawmakers lamenting the consequences of the withdrawal and their inaction to address the needs of Afghan evacuees.

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