By Janean Sorrell, Aug. 31, 2021
There is no ignoring the horrific events unfolding in Afghanistan’s capitol city, Kabul. Recently a suicide bomber killed 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members just outside Kabul’s airport. Three of the Marines were from southern California.
People are desperately trying to escape Afghanistan, which is now under Taliban rule. Tens of thousands of citizens, who the United States has put into harm’s way, are frantically looking for a way out.
After starting this 20-year war, the United States government has a moral obligation to aid the civilians who have risked their lives as translators and interpreters. Yet because of immigration law red tape, many will be left behind. The U.S. needs to stop the bureaucratic delays, rescue these terrified people now and worry about the paperwork later.
I am especially worried about the deadly threat to Afghan women. They have spent the last 20 years fighting for women’s equality. Afghan women were finally able to work and attend school, but all of this changed overnight with the Taliban takeover.
The U.N. reports that Afghan women are being targeted. During a news conference on Aug. 24, a Taliban spokesperson told women to stay home, indicating they were not safe from the militant group’s soldiers. Back in March, three women journalist were killed by gunmen on their way home from work.
Opposers might say that these refugees would require too much in welfare services that would weigh down the American taxpayer. However, according to the U.S. State Department, on average refugees pay back in taxes what they use in government services in approximately eight years. Over 20 years the average refugee contributes tens of thousands more then they use. The data also show hat from 1980 to 2014 refugees have contributed over $63 billion more to government revenues than they used in public service.
Another concern stems from the idea that refugee’s bring crime with them. However, according to a study by Cambridge University, this is not the case. When former President Trump ceased refugee resettlement back in 2017, it did nothing to bring down the national crime rate. The data suggest that the towns that experience the greatest influx of refugees tend to see a drop in crime.
The bureaucratic issue holding up the evacuation of thousands is the Special Immigrant Visa Program (SIV) which was, created by Congress back in 2009. This program allows Afghan and Iraqi nationals, as well as their immediate family members, safe passage to the U.S. after working as a translator or interpreter with the U.S. Armed Forces or under Chief of Mission authority.
However, there are multiple hoops one must jump through to obtain this Visa. They must meet employment qualifications, provide supporting documents such as proof of employment, letters of recommendation, evidence of nationality, birth certificates, civil documents and have an active passport. Additionally, they must pay a $375 fee, submit fingerprints, and have an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate.
Both the biometric and biographic background checks must be cleared before evacuees can be brought into the U.S. or relocated to different country.
How can we expect anyone to do this while their country is collapsing?
The SIV program has an extensive backlog; processing can take months and sometime years. Jen Psaki, press secretary for the White House said in mid-July there were approximately 20,000 applications in process.
The Afghanis have already gone through intensive vetting.
They were trusted to work alongside our troops, so why not trust them to live in the United States?
We owe it to the people of Afghanistan to cut the red tape and allow them to come here – to safety. If we do nothing to speed up the process, we are condemning the Afghan people to their death.
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