How the Afghan Adjustment Act would help American allies who were evacuated to Philadelphia and elsewhere.


Days before the one-year anniversary of the fall of Kabul — which began the giant airlift of wartime Afghan allies to the United States — the House and Senate introduced the Afghan Adjustment Bill on Tuesday. The law has been demanded by Afghans, their supporters, clergy and immigration organizations who say it is crucial to securing the future of those who fought alongside US troops.

The law would directly affect the lives of 76,000 Afghans who were evacuated to the United States, most of whom have now been resettled in communities across the country. The big impact: It would provide a pathway to permanent residency and citizenship for allies who currently have none.

No. Almost all of them were admitted to the United States on what is called humanitarian parole. It is an authorization to enter the country, but it is not an immigration status. Moreover, it does not provide any automatic means of obtaining permanent residence or citizenship. This has left Afghans who have come to this country living in a cloud of uncertainty. Some have applied for asylum, a procedure that promises to be long, uncertain and costly.

It’s certain. In many ways, Philadelphia was at the center of what was the biggest evacuation since the Vietnam War. Philadelphia International Airport served as the country’s main arrival point, welcoming more than 30,000 Afghans, and some 11,000 new arrivals lived for months in South Jersey on the grounds of Joint Base McGuire- Dix-Lakehurst, pending relocation.

It varies. But many would need to be physically present in the United States for two years before applying for lawful permanent residence. Once their green card is approved, the timeline would become the same as for legal refugees, who can apply for citizenship after five years.

More than twice as big as before the evacuation. As of 2020, Philadelphia was home to approximately 700 Afghans. Around 800 came here amid the US military withdrawal, bringing the total to around 1,500 now.

Yes. A lot. Under the law, Afghans would be subject to the same rigorous screening applied to those seeking refuge through the US refugee admissions program. Afghans evacuated to the United States have already been screened during Operation Allies Welcome. Now, the Department of Homeland Security would conduct additional background checks, rerun a full biometric scan, and conduct additional in-person screening interviews for each candidate.

No. The United States passed similar adjustment laws for those forced to flee other wars and conflicts, including Cubans caught up in Castro’s rise to power, Vietnamese and Cambodians after the fall of Saigon and the Iraqi Kurds under the reign of Saddam Hussein.

Nothing is certain in Congress, but the law was introduced in both houses of Congress with bipartisan support.

That would be a problem. This would likely mean that tens of thousands of new asylum claims would be forced into an immigration system that is already stifling applications. Many evacuees lack the documents they would need to prove asylum claims, as they destroyed official documents that showed their ties to the United States as they tried to avoid capture by the Taliban.

“We hope this legislation will provide a clear path,” said Gretchen Shanfeld, senior director of program operations at the Nationalities Service Center, the main resettlement agency for Afghans in Philadelphia. Currently, Afghan families are “facing an incredibly slow and protracted asylum process”.

RSVP for the National Immigration Forum’s Facebook Live presentation at 3 p.m. Monday. Experts from the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, World Relief and the American Immigration Council will speak about the bill and its potential impacts.


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