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Tag: afghan allies

‘They Just Open The Door’: U.S. Communities Welcoming Afghan Refugees

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Recent polling has shown overwhelming public support —81 percent — for welcoming Afghan refugees who aided the U.S. military. The Washington Post reports that support is being seen across the U.S., with resettlement organizations and other volunteer services being "inundated with calls from ordinary Americans seeking to assist the waves of Afghan citizens who have begun arriving in the United States."

"We have never seen this kind of increase in people wanting to volunteer," Refugee Services of Texas program supervisor Jacqueline Buzas told the Post. The report noted that one volunteer training session was shifted to virtual mode due to capacity. "We have people calling to say, 'I have an extra bedroom.' Or, 'I'm retired and have this extra house.' People understand the human aspects of this, having to flee this life-or-death situation," Buzas continued. "And they just open the door."

The Post reported that during one recent drive at Northern Virginia Community College, volunteers were overwhelmed with so many donations that some items were turned away. Some Americans who rushed to donate items have loved ones in Afghanistan. Hundreds of families are currently being temporarily housed at the school, with volunteers "bringing pizzas and snacks and water," the report continued. Back in Texas, the Post reports that as many as 10,000 Afghan refugees are expected to be temporarily housed at Fort Bliss before being resettled elsewhere in the state and country. KVUE reports that Refugee Services of Texas expects to help resettle about 300 people.

"These are individuals who I believe we have a moral obligation to help," CEO Russell Smith said in the report. "And we've actually made that promise to them, that they helped us in our efforts in Afghanistan, which has put them and their families' lives at risk. And so both fulfilling our promise and also kind of the moral obligation to get them out of harm's way." Despite some mainstream media framing, that appears to be the public opinion of some of the state's Republican leadership as well.

"Fort Bliss is a big place," the Post reports John Cornyn said. "The [post commander] briefed me this morning and said they have more than enough space to accommodate the Afghan refugees." Even Cornyn's colleague, Ted Cruz, said "[w]e have an obligation not to leave people to die at the hands of the Taliban for the crime of helping America." But in a nod to his xenophobic impulses, the Post reports that Cruz expressed concerns about vetting, claiming "[w]e also have an obligation to keep our citizens safe." They're vetted, Ted. Maybe you should spend more time worrying about our homegrown terrorists. The Post further notes that Gov. Greg Abbott, who previously tried to block refugees, "has been silent on the issue of Afghan refugees." He should feel free to stay that way.

A growing number of bipartisan governors, however, have done the right and moral thing by expressing public support for welcoming Afghan refugees to their states. On Monday, Democratic Maine Gov. Janet Mills' office informed the Biden administration that the state was "prepared to provide safety and opportunity to Afghan refugees who protected American service members and American interests in Afghanistan," the Press Herald reported.

In addition to donations of physical items, money, and time, there've also been rallies in support of Afghan allies and their families in numerous states across the nation. In Philadelphia, 150 rallied. In Chicago, another 100 rallied, including a former interpreter who pleaded for safety for his family back in Afghanistan. "You have seen my loyalty, now it's your turn to return the favor," he said according to ABC 7 Chicago. In Columbus and Fremont, Afghan community members rallied to highlight the urgency facing tens of thousands of vulnerable people. The latter has one of the largest Afghan communities in the nation.

"The United States promised people that you could come to the U.S. if you work with us, if you serve as our intelligence, if you serve as our translators, if you help us in this world," KPIX reports Hayward City Council Member Aisha Wahab said. "That was the deal." That was the deal—and we must keep our word.

CBS News reports that Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), among the organizations that had for months been calling for the urgent evacuation of allies and families, plans to launch a donation drive to accept items ranging from cleaning supplies to cell phones to diapers. Remember, these families are starting over in America, with few possessions beyond some suitcases. "This is an all-hands-on-deck moment in our nation's history. We simply can't do this work without the compassion and generosity of the local community," LIRS President Krish O'Mara Vignarajah said in the report. "If you have room in your heart to help these families start over from scratch, now is the time to make a difference." Families Belong Together tweeted that "[w]e are ready to welcome Afghan families—along with millions of Americans across the country."

New Poll: 81 Percent Will Welcome Afghan Allies Who Aided US

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

New CBS News/YouGov polling released over the weekend shows overwhelming support for evacuating Afghan translators and other allies to the United States. Overall, 81 percent responded affirmatively when asked if the nation should "help Afghan allies enter the U.S." Only 19 percent were opposed.

There was significant support for protecting our Afghan allies across individual party lines, CBS News said. Support was highest among Democrats, at 90 percent. But support was also high among independents and Republicans, at 79 percent and 76 percent, respectively.

"The broad bipartisan support for resettling Afghan allies is part of a broader public opinion trend in favor of immigrants and immigration, which grew stronger during the past four years," immigrant rights advocacy group America's Voice said on Monday in response to the polling.

The organization noted Gallup polling from last July that showed near-record high support among Americans who believe more immigration is good. Recent Data for Progress polling also shows overwhelming support for a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants, temporary status holders, and essential workers. "A deep and broad majority of Americans support resettling our Afghan allies, see immigration as a good thing, and want Congress to formally recognize undocumented immigrants as the Americans they already are," said America's Voice executive director Frank Sharry.

"Meanwhile, the ultranationalist right in America is working overtime to scare the American people into opposition on all three fronts," Sharry continued. "It isn't working." As I noted last week, an NBC News report sought to portray political divisions over welcoming Afghans by quoting former White House aide and noted white supremacist Stephen Miller, as well as citing anti-immigrant propagandist Laura Ingraham.

"Trumpian wing of the GOP is loud but not large," Sharry continued. "Their political efficacy is wildly overrated. They supported Trump's nationalization of the 2018 midterms on hyped fears of 'caravans and criminals' and suffered the largest midterm defeat in American history. They thought Trump was brilliant to run on xenophobia in 2020, only to see him lose to the pro-immigrant candidate by 7 million votes. During Trump's war on immigrants and refugees, Republicans lost the House, the Senate, and the White House."

Other recent polling also showed that "most voters, 55 percetn, also want Biden to speed up the visa-granting process for Afghan allies who helped the U.S. forces during two decades of operations there," Daily Kos' Kerry Eleveld wrote last week. "Those who support a streamlined visa process include majorities of Democrats (62 percent) and independents (56 percent), along with a 45 percent plurality of Republicans." The new polling comes as leading refugee advocates say that the Biden administration has made great strides in the number of evacuations from Afghanistan.

"This is what progress looks like," Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service president Krish O'Mara Vignarajah tweeted in response to updated numbers reported by CBS News. "There are still challenges at the airport, but the increasing pace of evacuation is very encouraging. It's a testament to what we can achieve with the full might of the US military working hand-in-glove with dedicated career diplomats."

Bipartisan Legislators Urge Biden To Evacuate Imperiled Afghan Allies

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

A bipartisan coalition of House members that includes U.S. military veterans is continuing to call on the Biden administration to quickly evacuate Afghan allies ahead of the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan in September, writing in a follow-up letter to President Joe Biden that "[o]ur Afghan friends and allies are at greater risk than ever before."

"In the past month, we have been closely following your developing withdrawal plans," members of the Honoring Our Promises Working Group write. "We appreciate the complexity of ending the War in Afghanistan, but we are increasingly concerned that you have not yet directed the Department of Defense be mobilized as part of a concrete and workable whole of government plan to protect our Afghan partners."

While the working group was created earlier this year with a goal of expanding the special visa program benefiting Afghans who assisted U.S. military, they say the approaching withdrawal deadline necessitates immediate action from the Biden administration. "The current SIV process will not work. It takes an average of 800+ days, and we plan to withdraw in less than 100 days." That timeline threatens to leave behind thousands of applicants who put their lives at risk to aid our military, lawmakers say.

"After examining this situation through multiple hearings, briefings, and our own offices' research and outreach, our bipartisan working group has concluded that we must evacuate our Afghan friends and allies immediately," they write. "No U.S. entity—to include the Department of Defense, Department of State, USAID, et al.—has the ability or authority to protect them in Afghanistan after our withdrawal. It would be a moral failure to transfer the responsibility to protect our Afghan partners onto the shoulders of the Afghan Government. The time is now to honor our promise and evacuate Afghan SIV applicants."

Like veterans groups and refugee resettlement groups, the working group noted the U.S. has evacuated a large number of vulnerable people in the past, and has the capability to do so again. "The United States has conducted evacuations at a far greater scale before," legislators write, including the evacuation of roughly 130,000 Vietnamese refugees during the Ford administration. Smaller evacuations also occurred during the Clinton administration, including 20,000 Kosovar Albanians in 1999. "We have experience with this type of evacuation in times of crisis, and the current environment in Afghanistan clearly merits such action," legislators said.

"If we fail to protect our allies in Afghanistan, it will have a lasting impact on our future partnerships and global reputation, which will then be a great detriment to our troops and the future of our national security," legislators tell the Biden administration. "Veterans in Congress understand this firsthand: when we recruited our Afghan friends, we promised to have their backs. The Honoring Our Promises Working Group stands ready to provide support and oversight for this critical mission." A full list of working group members is available here.

In its letter to the Biden administration last month, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) said "the U.S. must fulfill its commitments to our Afghan allies and work urgently to ensure their and their families' safety. Veterans' groups, national security experts, and legislators agree that we must honor this commitment. Our allies put their lives on the line to support our troops because they believed in the U.S. mission. We must show Afghans and the rest of the world that the U.S. will follow through on our word."

"Through their allegiance and faithful service, these wartime allies and their families have long been the targets of anti-American violence and persecution," LIRS President Krish O'Mara Vignarajah warned in her recent op-ed in The Washington Post. "The omnipresent threat of retribution, tragically, has only grown in the face of imminent U.S. withdrawal."