When the Biden administration recently announced that it would protect Afghans in the United States from deportation by granting them Temporary Protected Status (TPS), those of us who worked on the evacuation and resettlement tens of thousands of Afghans breathed a sigh of relief. It was a long overdue and necessary designation given the serious humanitarian and security crisis in Afghanistan, but it was also a stark reminder that we must find a permanent solution for these newly arrived Afghan Americans.
With the Afghan TPS designation, the Biden administration did the right thing for Afghans in the United States who lived in fear of being sent back to certain suffering and harm in Afghanistan. President Joe Biden must now use his bullying pulpit to urge Congress to pass a bipartisan Afghan Adjustment Act.
TPS – a form of immigration status given to people from certain countries who experience conditions that make it difficult or dangerous to return – has enjoyed consistent bipartisan support over the past three decades, but its validity limited to 18 months and its conditional renewal at the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security creates unbearable uncertainty for many Afghans.
For several months, lawyers, congressional staff and members of the Biden administration have been back and forth over whether an immediate TPS grant for Afghans would be appropriate or sensible. These conversations did not focus on whether conditions in Afghanistan support Afghan TPS or whether there is historical precedent for such a designation. Instead, the discussion turned to strategy.
As organizations like ours, the Afghan-American Foundation, continued to lobby the administration of TPS for Afghanistan, many, including some immigration advocates and policy makers, expressed their sincere belief that members of Congress would not act urgently on a permanent immigration solution. for Afghans if TPS was granted to them by the Biden administration. Their concern, which we took seriously but also challenged, was that Congress would be happy to leave Afghans on the well-worn path of indefinite TPS renewals and perpetual uncertainty that so many other groups living in United States borrowed. If there was ever a perfect example of how our immigration system is broken, how detached it has become from our principles and values as a country and the frustration it rightly engenders, he is captured in this preoccupation.
To think that people, some desperate enough to chase a US Air Force C-17 down a runway in Kabul, could make it to safety in the United States only to then have to outrun the defeatism of our polarized politics is deeply disturbing. At the very least, that should serve as a wake-up call to Democrats and Republicans, who have spoken of honoring America’s commitment to its Afghan allies and partners, and other Afghans at risk.
Nearly 80,000 Afghans have been evacuated to the United States since the fall of Kabul in August 2021 and thousands more are heading here. Together, they would be one of the most vetted groups of refugees ever to come to the United States.
President Biden pledged a whole-of-government effort to help Afghans who had been promised refuge by the United States. After some delay, his administration made significant progress in delivering on that promise through its grant of TPS. Now it’s up to Congress to do its job – without further ado and without playing politics – and deliver to the President’s office a bill for signing that paves the way for real and lasting security for Afghans in the United States. .
Just as with the Afghan TPS, there is precedent to work on for this critically important piece of legislation. The United States created this pathway to becoming Americans for Cuban political refugees in 1966 through the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA), for people fleeing Southeast Asia after the Vietnam War through the through the Indochina Migration and Refugee Act of 1975, HR 7769 (1977) and the Indochinese Parole Adjustment Act (2000), and for Iraqi nationals through several bills resulting in National Defense Authorization Act of 2008. We have the roadmap; Congress must now find the will and clarity of purpose to follow it.
Leaders in Washington, as well as activists, should learn a lesson from the recently arrived Afghans — who hope for a new life here — and the many selfless Americans who have come together to help in the historic resettlement effort of the past seven months: C This is no time for cynicism.
Joseph M. Azam is an attorney, policy advisor, and Chairman of the Board of the Afghan-American Foundation, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization focused on advancing the interests of Afghan Americans. He is also a member of the National Welcome Council of Welcome.Us. He lives in Oakland, California.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.