This week’s news revolves around two truths: Our Afghan communities, both here in the U.S. and in Afghanistan, are in dire need of immediate and sustained support that ensures their and their loved ones’ safety in a time of crisis – and the Biden administration’s current rushed withdrawal plan from Kabul has compromised this.
As families and individuals leave Afghanistan, many are landing in our inhumane detention centers alongside the growing number of Haitian refugees, and additionally facing the numerous and entrenched injustices of this cruel system.
What is most unfortunate is that our Afghan siblings could have experienced far less harm, had the evacuation process begun earlier – whether it was on May 6, when refugee rights advocacy groups (including Human Rights First, the International Refugee Assistance Project, No One Left Behind, and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service) met with White House officials and called for a mass evacuation plan that did not rely on a severely backlogged SIV program, or later on June 24th, when Representative Seth Moulton unveiled a detailed evacuation plan to ensure safety for over 17,000 Afghans to Guam.
As a country with the resources to support evacuation and evacuees, we can and must move now to mitigate harm. Most importantly, this is compounded by the truth that our intervention and continued presence in Afghanistan, driven foremost by the desire to uphold U.S. occupation, has destabilized the country and directly put Afghans at further risk. As such, we have the responsibility to change our course of action.
If we want to ensure the end of a long, violent, and terrible war, we must move with an unwavering commitment to human rights. We at SAALT, following the leadership of Afghan community members and allies in the Evacuate Our Allies coalition, are calling on President Biden to prioritize safe for all Afghans by:
- Keeping the Kabul airport open for as long as necessary, and allowing military, charter, and commercial airflight.
- Working with the Department of Defense and the State Department to ensure safe passage for Afghans to and through the airport, and onto flights.
- Putting out a call for individuals certified for consular services, while continuing consular processing.
- Providing necessary information to evacuees in as many culturally-relevant languages as possible, including Dari, Pashto, Urdu, and Arabic.
- Centering the evacuation of vulnerable populations, including refugees, SIV applicants and their families, immigrant visa applicants and their family members (beyond spouses and minor children), P2 referrals, Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs), women’s rights activists and other human rights defenders, religious minorities, women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and other marginalized groups.
- Expedite the processing of visas for all of the populations listed above and waive all associated fees.
- Ensure safe arrival of Afghans in the U.S. by facilitating humanitarian parole using DHS parole authority – whether at ports-of-entry or in advance.
As we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the news may rightfully focus on the U.S.’s imperial history and haste of this war, but what President Biden does today and tomorrow can ensure that next week’s news also speaks to our nation’s willingness to recognize the consequences of this “War on Terror” and the cost that our South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, and Arab communities have paid as a result both here and abroad, and actively work to dismantle the racism and militarism baked into all systems of our federal government.