Guest Editorials, Opinion

Congress should do right thing on Afghan refugees

America’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan is one of many blights on the Biden administration’s spotty record. The fact that this nation since then has turned its back on Afghans who helped U.S. troops only makes the matter worse.

But there is a remedy for this injustice.

Since the Taliban retook control of Afghanistan more than two years ago, the United States has welcomed more than 80,000 refugees from the country.

But the humanitarian program that allowed them to come here provides only temporary protection and no road to permanent residency. In addition, thousands of Afghans who aided the American war effort remain at risk in their home country, unable to cut through the red tape and flee to the United States. They and their families are targets for retribution from the brutal Taliban.

“Helping these Afghans would signify to other allies that the U.S. doesn’t abandon its friends,” Sierra Dawn McClain wrote in the Wall Street Journal this week. “More important, it would help settle the moral debt America incurred with its botched withdrawal.”

In July, a bipartisan group of senators reintroduced the Afghan Adjustment Act, which had previously stalled in Congress. It would, The New York Times reports, “allow Afghans who have short-term humanitarian parole status — which typically lasts for two years — to apply for permanent legal status if they submit to additional vetting, including an interview.”

The original bill ran into roadblocks, primarily from Republicans, over security concerns involving immigrants who hadn’t been adequately screened and the Department of Homeland Security’s lack of transparency about the process.

The updated version of the bill addresses those concerns and has earned significant GOP support. Yet Congress remains distracted by various issues, most recently the government shutdown. Meanwhile, the lack of certainty for many refugees currently in the United States makes it impossible for them to set down roots and discourages employers from hiring them.

It’s true that, in the aftermath of our withdrawal from Afghanistan, there were problems with the vetting process and some undesirables took advantage of this. But as Times columnist Farah Stockman noted, the legislation in question is “one of the most promising ways to ensure that evacuees are rigorously vetted. The legislation requires additional screening for those who apply for permanent residency.”

The Afghan Adjustment Act offers members of Congress the opportunity to show voters they can come together for an important cause. They should pass the bill this year. We must not turn our backs on those who selflessly and courageously helped this country.

This editorial first appeared in Las Vegas Review-Journal. This commentary should be considered another point of view and not necessarily the opinion or editorial policy of The Dominion Post.