Will Congress extend protections for Afghans in America?
In just a few months, the temporary parole granted to Afghans who fled their country when Kabul fell to the Taliban in 2021 will end. Their hopes for remaining legal in the United States depend on Congress taking action. So far that has not happened. We spoke with Afghans we interviewed a year ago to hear about their resettlement and concerns for their future.
TRANSCRIPT FROM VIDEO
'KHAN': It was like a doomsday. Everyone was telling one another that the government was collapsing, the Taliban entered the Kabul city. And I was just thinking that I would be no longer a resilient, brave Afghan. I would be a helpless refugees looking and searching for food, shelter, and identity. This is what happened to Afghans for the past 40 years.
ANGIE MILES: When we met 'Khan' and 'Khabir' in 2022, the Afghan men were new to America. Both were still incredibly devastated from the sudden departure from their country just months before. 'KHABIR': Leaving Afghanistan is very hard. Whenever I hear the name of my country in the media, it make me to cry. The day I remember I was leaving my country the hardest day in my life.
ANGIE MILES: Both men used assumed names and concealed their identity in our Focal Point story, concerned for the safety of loved ones left behind. Now they're resettled with homes and work and school.
'KHAN': We were in a temporary house that was rented by our immigration agency, Commonwealth Catholic Charity. And then in the spring we were moved to a new house, a better house in the Chesterfield County. I have my own transport. I didn't have my own car at that time. We are used to the area. I'm no longer using GPS for some areas.
ANGIE MILES: He says he also enjoys American French fries and is pleased that he's working in his field of engineering which he was not able to do in his homeland.
ANGIE MILES: Both have some family and friends here with them and both are in touch with loved ones still in Afghanistan. 'Khabir' is now comfortable enough to speak openly using his real name.
AJMAL HAMZA: I got a job that was a nonprofit organization and I was helping refugees. I was enjoying it and I worked with that office for a year and then, due to my studies, quit that job and resigned it. So I'm self-employed now and I'm studying IT. Many thing changed and I'm happy with that.
ANGIE MILES: But a source of constant worry is America's inaction on their legal status. More than 70,000 Afghan evacuees were granted only temporary parole in the United States.
'KHAN': Our parole, which was only for two years, that expires in August for most of the people and the government, the Congress have not acted so far and if they don't act within these coming few months most of the people will lose that status and then facing court proceeding or deportation. So that's a big problem right now.
ANGIE MILES: Ajmal points out that the whole reason refugees fled Afghanistan and left behind the country they love is because their friendships, alliances, or support of the United States put their safety in jeopardy when Kabul fell. A number of US veterans have become ardent advocates, saying the mission is not complete until America does right by those who risked and sacrificed for the US.
CHRIS COONS: We are convinced the Afghan Adjustment Act furthers the national security of the United States and it is a moral imperative.
ANGIE MILES: But the Afghan Adjustment Act, a bipartisan proposal initiated in 2021, expired without approval in 2022. Without an act of Congress, tens of thousands of Afghans may find themselves here illegally or may even be deported, which for some could be a death sentence.
AJMAL HAMZA: We appreciate people. We appreciate the United States government that they gave us safe haven or maybe like a good life. We really appreciate that, but we still need to be very legal in this country and we want to be legal.