I’m in the midst of one of the most rewarding projects of my professional career. Our firm (with the help of some amazing volunteers) has been meeting with Afghans who were evacuated from their home about a year ago. As we work with them to prepare their asylum applications, we interview them on why they need to stay in the United States. We have met with soldiers and translators who worked with the US military, educated women, journalists, and politicians. Every story is amazing…and yet infuriating, too. We’ve talked to many people who were forced to flee without their families – the fall of the government happened so quickly that if they were in Kabul, but their family was in another city, there was just no time to get together. We’ve met with two men who haven’t met their youngest child because the babies were born after August 2021. I’m not one for crying, but a few stories have definitely left me teary-eyed.

When they were evacuated, they were paroled into the United States for a two-year period. Some of the applicants were sponsored for a Special Immigrant Visa because of their work with the US military, but most everyone else is left trying to figure out a long term solution for staying the United States. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as “good guy” status where someone gets to stay here because they’ve done incredible things in the past, work hard, and stay out of trouble. Asylum is often the only option.

Asylum is difficult to win – the standards are high and there’s a need for strong evidence, evidence that may not exist because the applicant didn’t think to grab it before they left their home country. Thankfully, we’re hearing that many Afghan asylum cases are successful, but overall, the approval rates hover around 50%. For people who fear torture and death if they have to return to Afghanistan, that’s a very scary number. Also, for many asylum seekers, the wait for an interview can be five years or more – though USCIS has prioritized conducting interviews for Afghans right now. If asylum is granted, a year later, they can apply for their green card and become a lawful permanent resident.

Yesterday, though, we had a bit of good news for our Afghan friends. A bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives introduced the Afghan Adjustment Act in both chambers. If passed and signed into law, it would allow Afghans who entered as evacuees to apply for their green cards and bypass the uncertainty of asylum. They would be granted full status more quickly and they could begin the process of reuniting with their families much faster than if they were asylees. The Afghans who came to the US under Operation Allies Welcome or Operation Allies Refuge are certainly deserving of the opportunity to apply for lawful permanent residency in the United States. Again, these are people who worked with our military or who believed in US ideas of democracy and equality. We need to respect and honor their sacrifices and the Afghan Adjustment Act is the best way to do this.

I humbly ask that you contact Congress and let them know that this legislation should pass. It’s easy to do! Follow this link, add your information and a template letter will be provided and sent to your representatives. Having done advocacy work for years, I know that this makes a difference. The more encouragement we can give our elected officials, the better. Please join me in asking for the Afghan Adjustment Act to become law.