On July 14th, Congress introduced a bipartisan bill called the Afghan Adjustment Act — a bill that would create a pathway to permanent legal status for the hundreds of thousands of Afghans who were evacuated to the U.S. after Kabul fell to the Taliban.
We know it can be difficult to weed through all the legal jargon in an effort to understand new bills when they’re introduced. That’s why today, we’re answering your questions about the Afghan Adjustment Act and giving you the tools you need to advocate for our Afghan allies.
What is the Afghan Adjustment Act?
The Afghan Adjustment Act is a bipartisan bill introduced in both chambers of the U.S. Congress. This important legislation acknowledges the plight of Afghan nationals who faced an urgent threat of persecution under the Taliban, including many who have worked tirelessly alongside the United States military, diplomatic missions and non-governmental organizations, risking their lives to support the cause of peace and stability.
These individuals have been our allies and partners in promoting shared values such as freedom, justice and human dignity, and we are grateful that they have found refuge in the United States – but they still have only temporary legal protections in the U.S. that bear expiration dates.
Why is the Afghan Adjustment Act Important?
In August 2021, Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, triggering a frantic effort to evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghan allies to safety. In the weeks that followed, tens of thousands of Afghans were brought to the United States after being processed and vetted in third-country locations. Due to the unusual nature of the evacuation, Afghans were brought to the U.S. with “parole,” rather than being formally admitted as refugees.
The Afghan Adjustment Act presents a significant opportunity for Congress to provide a safe haven for Afghans paroled into the U.S., by allowing them to apply for permanent legal status, treating them in similar ways to how those formally admitted as refugees are treated under U.S. law.
Congress previously passed similar adjustment acts after Fidel Castro’s rise to power in Cuba and hundreds of thousands of Cubans fled to the U.S. for refuge, after the Vietnam War, and after Operation Desert Storm in Iraq. Our U.S. government should swiftly pass the Afghan Adjustment Act to provide certainty to Afghans.
What is the current status of Afghans in the U.S.?
Most of the Afghans who were evacuated to the U.S. were brought to our country using a tool called parole. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced a re-parole process for Afghan nationals.
This is a positive step, but it is insufficient because it leaves tens of thousands of Afghans still facing an uncertain future, with documents that allow them to reside and work lawfully in the United States that bear expiration dates. Additionally, alternative pathways to permanent legal status, such as applying for asylum, are inadequate as both the legal services infrastructure and governmental capacity to adjudicate asylum requests are already overwhelmed.
Many Afghans who have arrived are also deeply concerned for the well-being of family members and other loved ones who were not able to be evacuated, many of whom remain in Afghanistan and others who have escaped to other countries.
Why should Christians support this bill?
America has a long history of welcoming those fleeing violence and persecution. For decades, the American people – including many evangelical Christians, have responded in ways rooted in their biblical faith, and have stepped up in remarkable, sacrificial ways to welcome newcomers.
Scripture is clear about our role to embody compassion and justice towards those in need. Since the fall of Afghanistan, churches, community organizations, and church-based volunteers have given generously of their time and resources to ensure that their Afghan neighbors felt welcomed into their communities. Providing a clear pathway to permanent legal status for Afghans fleeing persecution is a promise that the United States government made and is the ethical and moral way to respond to this situation.
Will Afghans be subjected to Additional Vetting?
The Afghan Adjustment Act appropriately subjects Afghans to additional vetting and screening before they would be granted permanent legal status.
Under the terms of the bipartisan bill introduced in July 2023, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense and, as appropriate, the Attorney General, would be required to establish additional vetting procedures including an in-person interview and biometric and biographical screening. The United States has an admirable record of prioritizing both security and compassion, and the Afghan Adjustment Act advances both goals.
How can I get involved?
Here in the Tri-Cities, your voice matters and you can help make a difference by advocating for swift passage of the Afghan Adjustment Act. Reach out to our members of Congress and urge them to support the bill. Consider scheduling an in-person meeting with the district office and share your story and why this bill matters to you. Members of Congress want to hear the concerns of their constituents, and this is an excellent way to get involved in the legislative process.
Chelsea Sobolik joined World Relief in 2023. She currently works on public policy before the U.S. government and intergovernmental organizations. Prior to joining World Relief, she led policy and advocacy for Lifeline Children’s Services, the largest evangelical adoption agency in the United States. She has also served as the Director of Public Policy at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and worked on Capitol Hill. She is the author of Longing for Motherhood: Holding Onto Hope in the Midst of Childlessness, and her forthcoming book Called to Cultivate: A Gospel Vision for Women and Work. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband Michael.