Congress’ Failure to Pass the Afghan Adjustment Act is an Outrage
Dec 20, 2022
SILVER SPRING, Md. —
Statement of HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield:
“We are outraged that Congress has failed to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act (AAA), leaving refugees evacuated from Afghanistan a year and a half ago in legal limbo with no clear pathway to permanent residency when their humanitarian parole status expires in the coming months.
With Senate minority leadership doing nothing to stop him, Senator Chuck Grassley used his power as ranking member of the Judiciary Committee to block this essential legislation, which had 10 bipartisan cosponsors in the Senate, and 144 bipartisan cosponsors in the House — even after 30 retired top brass from the U.S. military, including three former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and five major veteran service organizations spoke out this week, urging congressional leadership to take action on what they rightly described as a moral imperative that would further the national security interests of the United States.
The more than 75,000 Afghans evacuated in 2021 — including personnel who worked alongside American forces and U.S.-based humanitarian organizations, those who supported the broader U.S. mission of advancing democracy and freedom, women’s and human rights activists, and judges and educators — were evacuated to the United States with temporary protection in the U.S. under humanitarian parole. Unlike traditional refugee resettlement, parolees do not have a path to lawful permanent resident status. Without the Afghan Adjustment Act, Afghans will either have to apply for permanent residency through the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, which takes years, or through the complex and overwhelmingly backlogged U.S. asylum system.
Since the introduction of this bill, its cosponsors have worked to address security-related concerns from Republican members, leading to provisions in the AAA that would have mandated new and stringent security vetting for all evacuees. The legislation would also have established a task force to develop and implement a strategy for supporting allies left behind in Afghanistan, along with an office outside of Afghanistan with consular functions to process applications of those still seeking entry to the U.S.
There was solid precedent for the Afghan Adjustment Act. Congress has in the past provided paths to permanent residency for Cubans fleeing the Castro regime, for Vietnamese and other refugees after the wars in Southeast Asia, and for Iraqis after Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Today, sadly, the United States Congress failed to rise to its obligation to stand with the Afghans who stood with us.
Our hopes were high when the AAA was introduced in both houses of Congress with strong bipartisan support in August. But while we are deeply concerned about the fate of this crucial legislation with the next Congress, we will continue to push Republicans, Democrats and independents to meet this moral imperative and take immediate action in the new year to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act.”