Exclusion of Afghan Adjustment in Omnibus is a Moral and Legal Failure
WASHINGTON D.C. – Human Rights First decries the decision to deny the Afghan Adjustment Act an up or down vote. Veterans groups, faith leaders, refugee advocacy organizations, businesses, labor, and other groups across American society have been demanding this critical legislation. This congressional inaction puts the lives of thousands of Afghans left behind under Taliban rule in jeopardy. It also leaves the nearly 80,000 evacuees in the U.S. on humanitarian parole in another year of uncertainty.
The Afghan Adjustment Act was introduced by a bipartisan group of senators and representatives, with the support of three out of four Americans. Among other reforms, the measure would give relocated Afghans a pathway to lawful permanent residency in the United States before their temporary humanitarian parole expires in late summer and fall of 2023.
“Congressional leaders have had over a year to fix this issue. We’ve known that parole will begin expiring for the nearly 80,000 evacuees that arrived in the U.S. in August 2021. We are running out of time before thousands lose their immigration status, jobs, and potentially their homes. All while thousands more who are being targeted by the Taliban need immediate assistance,” said Jennifer Quigley, Senior Director, Government Affairs for Human Rights First. “The fact that this bill was kept out of legislation because of disingenuous talking points about vetting, even after the strongest possible vetting language was included, shows that there are those in Congress who care nothing about honoring America’s promise to our allies.”
In the lead-up to the final negotiations, scores of retired senior leaders, ambassadors, and veterans groups all demanded the inclusion of the Afghan Adjustment Act in the text of the FY23 Omnibus, or otherwise attached as an amendment. This was a critical bill for veterans who worked hard to save and sustain our Afghan allies during and after the August 2021 Kabul evacuation. Congress deliberately chose to not listen to those who sacrificed so much in America’s longest war.
“This follows a pattern from congress when it comes to issues that veterans care about. In August 2021, many of the same members of Congress who now oppose this bill were working desperately to evacuate people who had contacted their offices. We received hundreds of direct requests from Senators and Representatives asking us for help at that time. Now, a year later, when we need help and ask for their support, veterans are given a collective shrug and disingenuous talking points,” said Chris Purdy, director of Human Rights First’s Veterans for American Ideals program. “The veteran community doesn’t want anyone to thank us for our service, we want Congress to listen and help those who fought alongside us.”
We applaud the efforts of the bill leads who worked diligently to attach this legislation to the FY23 Omnibus Spending Bill, such as Senators Coons, Graham, Klobuchar, Moran, and many others. Human Rights First will continue to fight for those Afghans left behind and to ensure that those who came to the United States during the August 2021 evacuation are given the opportunity to apply for legal permanent residency.