As the one-year anniversary of the fall of Kabul is upon us, the 76,000 Afghans temporarily paroled into the United States continue to face endless challenges as they try to rebuild their lives in times of uncertainty, fading hope and immense distress.
They remain in legal limbo, lacking a clear pathway to lawful permanent residency.
On Aug. 9, the sun dawned upon these Afghan parolees with a slight ray of hope. As they continue to endure extreme hardships, the long-anticipated Afghan Adjustment Act was introduced in the U.S. Congress. This particular bipartisan bill will pave the way for Afghan parolees who left everything behind and are now restarting their lives in the United States.
If enacted, the Afghan Adjustment Act will allow these Afghans to adjust their status and apply for lawful permanent resident status ("green card") more expeditiously than asylum and special immigrant visa (SIV) process, both of which are extensive.
Since the fall of Kabul last year, Afghan parolees have been through extraordinary difficulties. At the Kabul Airport, tens of thousands fought their way through tear gas, extortion and even a suicide bombing in hopes of being evacuated.
The images of death and destruction shared with me via WhatsApp during the 15 days of the chaotic evacuation are difficult to forget. Some told me if hell existed on earth, it was at the Kabul Airport in August 2021.
In the year that followed, I traveled to seven different U.S. military bases in the East Coast which temporarily housed Afghans, and each of my fellow Afghans felt a plethora of emotions. As an immigration attorney providing legal services on these military bases, I witnessed some heart- wrenching stories.
I felt tremendously overwhelmed and in awe as I saw so many of my fellow Afghans displaced in unfamiliar environments, uncertain of what their futures held for them. I listened earnestly to their stories of their harrowing journey to the United States as they sat on the bare ground huddled around their loved ones, in fear of being separated.
Unfortunately, these hardships didn't come to an end, once they reached these military bases. On these bases, thousands continued to endure hardships as they remained separated from their loved ones. They experienced anxiety and depression as most were concerned about their future in the new refuge they found at the cost of leaving their loved ones behind.
Their gut-wrenching stories shared with me merely touch the surface of the thousands of unheard and undocumented anecdotes buried inside these military bases.
We owe justice to these Afghans and the Afghan Adjustment Act is one of the best ways to pay back and put an end to their legal limbo. Indeed, it is one of the fastest ways to help Afghan parolees reunite with their families.
It is the United States' moral obligation to keep up with its promise of helping Afghans who have stood shoulder to shoulder with our government and their mission in Afghanistan through thick and thin.
The introduction of Afghan Adjustment Act is certainly the first step towards the road of peace and prosperity for Afghans but it should not be the last. We should remain steadfast in our endeavors to help our Afghans allies.
Editor's note: Spojmie Nasiri is an immigration attorney and principal at the Law Office of Spojmie Nasiri, PC, in Pleasanton. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association Afghan Response Task Force.