One year after the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, a coalition of Evangelical Christian leaders and organizations are urging Congress to pass legislation allowing Afghans evacuated following the Taliban's takeover to become legal permanent residents.
The Evangelical Immigration Table, a nonpartisan coalition of evangelical organizations that advocate for a "bipartisan solution on immigration," sent a letter to members of Congress last week asking lawmakers to allow Afghan refugees who came to the U.S. following the country's fall to the Taliban to apply for permanent legal status.
The organizations that comprise the Evangelical Immigration Table are the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Faith and Community Empowerment, the National Association of Evangelicals, the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, The Wesleyan Church, World Relief and Bethany Christian Services.
"One year ago this month, Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, triggering a frantic effort to evacuate U.S. citizens and allies to safety," the letter recalled. "In the weeks that followed, tens of thousands of Afghans came to the United States after being processed and vetted in third-country locations."
The letter notes that Americans, including many Christians, stepped up in "remarkable, sacrificial ways" to welcome evacuees, many of whom "faced particular threats because of their association with the United States."
"[W]hile these Afghans indeed fled a clearly credible fear of Taliban persecution and thus almost certainly meet the legal definition of a refugee, the vast majority of them were not formally admitted with refugee status," the letter states.
The Evangelical Immigration Table organizations identified the "temporary parole and employment authorization" many Afghans have been granted instead as a "source of significant stress" on the newcomers.
"Had they been admitted as refugees, as they mark the one-year anniversary of their presence in the U.S., these individuals would be allowed and required to apply for Lawful Permanent [Residency] – and be on track to pursue naturalization four years later as they fully embrace this country that has embraced them," the letter reads.
The Evangelical groups pleaded with members of Congress to "pass legislation to allow Afghans paroled into the U.S. to apply for permanent legal status, treating them just as those formally admitted as [refugees] are treated under U.S. law."
They requested government leaders do "everything possible to ensure that the U.S. continues to welcome Afghans who are facing or have fled persecution from the Taliban, including urging the administration to consider further requests for humanitarian parole and to invest in a more robust, nimble refugee [resettlement] process."
"Tragically, there is no likelihood that these new neighbors will be able to safely return to Afghanistan any time in the foreseeable future," the letter stresses. "They now want to rebuild their lives in the United States – with the certainty that they fully belong here, a confidence that only permanent legal status can provide."
The bipartisan Afghan Adjustment Act, which would allow Afghans to apply for permanent status, was introduced in the House and Senate last week.
Also known as S.4787, the bill would "provide support for nationals of Afghanistan who supported the United States mission in Afghanistan, adequate vetting for parolees from Afghanistan, adjustment of status for certain nationals of Afghanistan, and special immigrant status for at-risk Afghan allies and relatives of certain members of the Armed Forces, and for other purposes."
Introduced last week by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., the Afghan Adjustment Act has attracted Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Chris Coons, D-Del., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, as cosponsors. Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Peter Meijer, R-Mich., are leading companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In a statement, Klobuchar maintained, "Giving our Afghan allies a chance to apply for permanent legal status is the right and necessary thing to do."
"[T]his bipartisan legislation will help provide these newly arrived Afghans who have sacrificed so much for our country with the legal certainty they deserve as they begin their lives in the U.S," she said.
Leaders of the organizations that comprise the Evangelical Immigration Table also expressed support for the legislation.
Myal Greene, president and CEO of the refugee resettlement organization World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Assocation of Evangelicals, insisted that passing the legislation "will help ensure we treat Afghans as well as we treat other refugees."
"We urge Congress to act immediately to pass it into law and listen to the voices of the people who have helped to welcome new Afghan neighbors, including thousands of local churches that have stepped up to build communities of love and welcome to receive them," she added.
Chris Palusky, president and CEO of Bethany Christian Services, another organization that aids refugees, stated that passing the legislation would "provide certainty for these men, women, and children."
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org