Monday, November 21, 2022

How You Can Support Afghan Refugees

© Bloomberg News
After the early withdrawal of US troops and the takeover of the Afghan government by the Taliban in August 2021, the US evacuated 80,000 Afghans who were at risk for their roles in helping the US and NATO missions in Afghanistan. Many of these evacuees were Special Immigration Visa candidates who should have been evacuated months earlier. Among the evacuees were human rights defenders, women in government, political activists, artists, and others under threat by the new government. Unfortunately, Afghan evacuees could lose their right to live in the US because they entered the country under the Humanitarian Parole process. Humanitarian Parole gives only temporary permission to stay US and does not provide a path to legal permanent residency or citizenship.

Afghans with this status have two years of eligibility and must pursue other ways of attaining permanent immigration, such as asylum. Asylum is a lengthy and complex process, and often requires specialized legal help. Also complicating the matter, many Afghans forced to flee their country were advised to destroy identification documents, professional certificates, and other valuable information that could serve as evidence needed to support an asylum claim.


Around the same time as the collapse of the Afghan government, legislation to aid refugees from Afghanistan was introduced in the US House of Representatives. HR 4736—Improvement Access for Afghan Refugee Act—calls to assist Afghan nationals who suffered persecution based on their occupation and citizenship status in Afghanistan. The bill would authorize the US State Department, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, to designate certain Afghans as refugees of special humanitarian concern, including individuals who are or were habitual residents of Afghanistan; Afghan nationals or stateless persons; or people who have suffered persecution or have a well-founded fear of persecution. Afghans who are targets of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, social status, political opinion, or occupation would also be granted special status.

The following summer (2022), the US Senate introduced S.4787—The Afghan Adjustment Act. This legislation would grant eligibility for special immigrant visas to certain Afghan nationals (and accompanying spouses and children) who either provided qualifying service as a member of the Afghan Air Force or were employed by or on behalf of the US government in Afghanistan.

These pieces of legislation would be a significant step toward leveling the playing field for Afghan refugees. “In recent months, the United State’s response to Ukrainian evacuees has been different from Afghan evacuees," said Humaira Ghilzai, an Afghan cultural expert and writer. “The US has been more receptive and less restrictive to Ukrainian immigrants who have arrived in the US.”

“I am proud of the fact that Washington has continued to unapologetically and wholeheartedly welcome refugees fleeing violence, war, and famine into our state. As we worked hard to resettle and help Afghan refugees, many do not have a clear path to residency,” said Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. “The Afghan Adjustment Act is a vital piece of legislation that would fix this gap in our system and allow Afghan refugees in our country to have a pathway to residency and stability. I am proud to be a co-sponsor on this bill, and I thank the Seattle Opera for highlighting the plight of Afghans through art.”


Let your US Congressperson know that you support Afghan refugees and ask them to pass national legislation that would provide a pathway to lawful permanent status for Afghan evacuees. Here’s how to reach your member of congress:


For many years, the people of Washington State have welcomed refugees from around the world with open arms. Currently, the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services and numerous community organizations are aiding Afghan refugees. Seattle Opera is helping with these efforts by collecting food, clothing, toiletries, and other needed supplies. You can also help welcome our new friends, families, and neighbors by volunteering and donating to the following organizations:

Afghan America Cultural Association

Afghans of Seattle

Afghan Health Initiative

Diocese of Olympia Refugee Resettlement Office

Immigrant Women’s Community Center

International Rescue Committee-Seattle

Jewish Family Service

Kits for Peace/Essentials First

Lutheran Community Services Northwest

American Muslim Empowerment Network

Muslim Community Resource Center

Refugee and Immigrant Services Northwest

Refugee Women’s Alliance

Sahar Education

SCM Medical Missions

Viets for Afghans

World Relief-Western Washington


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