By Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Two Catholic agencies have joined a call by the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Migration for passage of a bipartisan bill that would provide newly arrived Afghans the opportunity to become lawful permanent U.S. residents.
The Catholic Legal Immigration Network and Catholic Charities USA said action on the Afghan Adjustment Act is needed to allow Afghans who arrived in the country in the year since the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan to rebuild their lives.
Companion bills in the House of Representatives and the Senate would define the legal status of the 76,000 Afghans who arrived in the U.S. after the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan last August.
They also would require President Joe Biden to establish an Interagency Task Force on Afghan Ally Strategy and increase support for those who assisted the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.
The agencies' advocacy for the legislation and changes in how immigration officials process the Afghan arrivals follows an Aug. 10 letter from Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville of Washington, the migration committee chairman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
He urged members of the Senate and House to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act "without delay."
In a policy brief, Karen Sullivan, policy advocate at CLINIC, outlined steps for U.S. immigration officials and lawmakers to take to help Afghans obtain legal immigration status. She specifically called on Congress "to create a direct pathway to permanent residency" for those who were hurriedly evacuated from Afghanistan.
Afghans left their homeland for the U.S. only to be dropped "into an immigration system that failed to provide many of them with a clear pathway to permanent immigration status," Sullivan said in a statement.
"These families are struggling to establish an immigration status that provides them with long-term stability, leaving them feeling unsettled and fearful about their futures and their hopes to reunite with other family members," she added.
Sullivan also urged the Biden administration to "make immediate adjustments" to immigration rules to "ease the burdens that Afghan families face."
Separately, Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, advocated in an Aug. 24 letter to congressional leaders for passage of the pending legislation so that Afghan evacuees can obtain "the stability and security" they need.
She wrote that more than 60 Catholic Charities agencies, working with the USCCB's Department of Migration and Refugee Services, had served more than 13,000 Afghans nationwide in the past year. The agencies have provided resettlement service, housing, food and job placement assistance, legal aid and cultural orientation.
"We are proud to do this work in collaboration with local, state and federal government agencies," Sister Markham said, adding that Catholic Charities agencies would continue to serve recent arrivals.
Many Afghans now in the U.S. who worked alongside American military personnel now "face the threat of persecution and even death" if they return to their homeland, Bishop Dorsonville wrote in his letter to Congress.
The bishop described how the bill would end the limits under current law to Afghans staying in the U.S. He said the changes authorized in the legislation would demonstrate the United States' commitment to its allies and "reaffirm the importance of humanitarian protection."