Afghan Adjustment Act

Afghan Adustment Act - NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan

Lara Kajs | 15 August 2023 |

The Afghan Adjustment Act was introduced in the Senate on 7 August 2023. The bill expands eligibility to special immigrant visas (SIVs) for certain Afghan nationals and their families and addresses related concerns. More than 300,000 Afghan civilians have been allied with the US military over its two-decade presence in the country. As a result of their association with the US, Congress created SIVs, to give such allies a path to legal residency in the US. Thousands who helped in the mission are trapped. Many have been threatened, kidnapped, and attacked, and an unknown number have been killed. As it stands, a minority number are eligible for refugee status. This bill aims to change that.

Bipartisan and Interagency Support

The Afghan Adjustment Act is a bipartisan bill, from the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill is sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D – MN) and equally co-sponsored by Sen Lindsay Graham (R – SC), Sen Chris Coons (D-DE), Sen Roy Blunt (R – MO), Sen Richard Blumenthal (D – CT), Sen Lisa Murkowski (R – AK), Sen Jeanne Shaheen (D – NH), Sen Jerry Moran (R – KS), Sen Roger Wicker (R – MS), and Sen Patrick Leahy (D – VT).

The bill modifies procedures for providing lawful permanent resident status to Afghan nationals who supported the United States mission in Afghanistan. The Act provides an updated process with specified vetting requirements for certain individuals. It also reserves the eligibility of certain battered spouses whose eligibility for such status stemmed from a marriage that has been terminated.

As specified in the bill, the State Department must respond to inquiries from members of Congress about specific applications from Afghan nationals seeking immigrant or refugee status. It must also establish an office in Afghanistan to perform certain tasks, such as issuing special immigration visas. In the case that there are no operational US embassies in Afghanistan, the President must establish a task force to develop and implement a strategy to assist Afghan nationals who qualify for admission to the US.

Whether that includes getting approved individuals out of Afghanistan remains unclear.

Left Behind

Since 2001, the United States and other nation’s armed forces, relied on Afghans to work as interpreters, translators, police officers, and military personnel. In return, the US promised protection to the locals it relied on during the war. However, visa programs moved slowly, creating a bottleneck of approved SIVs. In 2013, when troops began to withdraw, the Taliban launched a campaign of retaliations, killing hundreds of Afghan police officers and soldiers.

In February 2022, a “peace” deal was arranged between the Trump Administration and the Taliban, with zero participation from the legitimate Afghan government. The Doha Agreement, as it is known, called for a complete withdrawal of all troops the following year. When the Biden Administration took over in 2021, one of the issues on its plate was the complete withdrawal and evacuation of Afghanistan. In the lead-up to the evacuation, there were calls for US citizens to get out immediately. But what about the many Afghan allies that helped the US for two decades? There were few if any asylum agreements approved, and tens of thousands of SIVs were backlogged. Meanwhile, the Taliban continued its brutal takeover of the country a piece at a time.

Seasoned observers were stunned at how quickly the entire country collapsed to the Taliban. US intelligence experts had predicted that it would be at least 18 months before Kabul would fall. It took less than 10 days. And it happened before the US left. Thousands of US citizens were still in Afghanistan. After the evacuation and withdrawal, tens of thousands of SIVs and green card holders, and hundreds of thousands of Afghan allies who supported the mission, were abandoned and left to the Taliban. To this day, many struggle with how this inevitable withdrawal that was supposed to be well-planned fell apart so quickly and ended the way it did.

Although the US managed to get 120,000 out, there are roughly 200 US citizens still in Afghanistan, along with 14,000 green card holders, 40,000 vetted Afghans with SIVs, and hundreds of thousands more who applied for the SIV program, who are stuck in the country. Human rights advocates, journalists, former military members, educators, attorneys, and judges are among those at risk.

Two Years Later

It has been two years since the US and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan, and it is as if the clock has been turned back to 1994. Twenty-four million people need humanitarian aid. The human rights of women and girls have been erased. More than 8 million people have been forced to flee their homes or their country. Some 3.2 million are internally displaced in Afghanistan. The economy is near collapse. The Taliban is back to illicit means of gaining wealth, and the country has once again become the training ground for terrorist groups. At the present rate, without a plan, or adjustments made, it will take the government 20 more years to process and evacuate the Afghan allies left behind.

The Afghan Adjustment Act would expand SIV eligibility and establish a task force dedicated to supporting Afghans eligible for SIV status outside of the US. The Act will also provide a pathway to permanent residency for more than 70K Afghan evacuees who were resettled under humanitarian parole. But approving the SIVs may be only half the problem. The other half lies in getting those approved out of Afghanistan. It is nearly impossible for anyone to leave the country, especially Afghan nationals. Taliban checkpoints are dangerous and those at risk are in hiding.

The Genocide Report is calling for the enactment of the Afghan Adjustment Act. This legislation will provide a pathway to lawful permanent status for Afghan nationals; the same legal structure they would have experienced had they been resettled as refugees to the US.

Please tell Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act.

Photo Credit: Supreme Allied Commander Europe, meets with Afghan National Army by NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan. Licensed under CC by SA 2.0