President Joe Biden has asked Congress to provide tens of thousands of Afghan refugees with a pathway to become legal permanent residents of the United States, according to a proposal included in the supplemental budget request he sent to lawmakers last week.
While that budget request centers around emergency aid to Ukraine, the President included the Afghan Adjustment Act in the text, the document shows. The adjustment legislation has been spearheaded in recent months by Democratic Sens. Chris Coons of Delaware and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
If passed, the measure would allow Afghan nationals who entered the US between July 31, 2021, and September 20, 2022, to apply to adjust their immigration status to permanent residency.
More than 60,000 Afghans were evacuated to the US last summer when the Taliban took back control of the country. For many Afghan nationals who arrived in the US following the frenzied evacuation, their first stop was a domestic military base.
But after extensive processing and vetting, they have gradually moved to communities across the country. Refugees were given humanitarian parole to remain in the country, and in March, were given temporary protected status for at least 18 months.
If the President’s request passes, eligible Afghans – including their spouses and children – will have to successfully complete background checks and live in the US for at least one year before applying for a green card, the document says.
“This sends a message to our Afghan friends that they have not been forgotten, and is a signal to all of our allies that we keep our promises. We are grateful for the support of the White House in recognizing the importance of this legislation,” Shawn VanDiver, a Navy veteran and founder of the #AfghanEvac coalition, told CNN in a statement.
“For lawmakers not yet on board, we remind you that our Afghan allies, who fought with us and aided us, are dying or have lost everything, and this is one of our last chances to honor their service to us. We encourage Congress to add the adjustment of status for Afghans into the Ukrainian supplemental aid package, and we hope to see it pass quickly and with bipartisan support.”
The resettlement of Afghan evacuees last fall had posed an especially challenging task for the Biden administration. The abrupt arrival of evacuees strained already-overwhelmed refugee resettlement agencies and left both the administration and organizations scrambling to find permanent homes in a housing crunch.
The last time the US resettled anywhere close to the number of Afghan evacuees within such a short period was after the US troop withdrawal from Vietnam, when more than 130,000 people came to the US over an eight-month period.