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What is the Afghan Adjustment Act and how could it help America's forgotten allies?

Many of the thousands of Afghan evacuees who resettled in the U.S. are still seeking permanent residency in America more than a year after fleeing Afghanistan.

The Afghan Adjustment Act awaiting movement in Congress could provide stability for over 88,000 evacuees who fled to the U.S. after the Taliban swiftly seized control of Afghanistan.

Afghans flooded the Kabul airport in August 2021 once it became apparent the Taliban would retake control of the country and once again implement its oppressive regime. The massive deluge of refugees caused officials to lift many of the standard immigration proceedings in order to conduct the airlift. 


Ultimately, at least 2.7 million fled their home country, according to the United Nations, and the Department of Homeland Security reports that more than 88,000 made it to the U.S. The refugees in the U.S. were granted temporary permission to live and work in the U.S. as well as receive health benefits, but that status is set to expire next year.


The Afghan Adjustment Act would let the refugees apply for permanent residency status in the U.S., allowing them to avoid deportation and let them keep their employment and health care benefits. The evacuees would otherwise need to go through other processes, such as applying for asylum, which could take years.

The Afghan Adjustment Act would help the refugees establish lives in America through a less rigorous procedure. It would let them avoid expensive legal fees and bypass the massive backlog of refugee applicants from other countries. 

The legislation's critics, including Sen. Chuck Grassley, have raised security concerns, fearing the expedited process would eliminate the thorough vetting of refugees. They worry that a more permissive system would create opportunities for suspected terrorists to enter the country. 

But proponents argue that many of the Afghan refugees were U.S. allies who helped fight the Taliban, making them targets for the newly established regime. Supporters have said they deserve stability since their service to America forced them to abandon their jobs and families. 

An elite group of female fighters, for example, conducted high-risk night raids to collect intelligence on top Taliban leaders during the war in Afghanistan. But because they were part of the Afghan Army and weren't employed by the U.S. government, those women weren't eligible for an existing visa program.

Any Afghans who fought the Taliban will have their lives threatened as long as they live in Afghanistan, but since this group was made up of women — who the Taliban already oppresses — the unit is considered to be a top target.

The legislation, meanwhile, would also require the Department of State establish a task force to assist in relocation efforts for people remaining at risk in Afghanistan. 

The bipartisan bill has 142 co-sponsors in the House and five in the Senate. Veterans, refugee resettlement agencies and national security experts have pushed for the legislation to pass, though there’s no indication if it’ll happen before the session ends. 

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