Elected officials in San Diego declare support for Afghan refugee bill

March 2, 2022

On March 1st, we recognized #AfghanEvac Day and showed our support for passing the Afghan Adjustment Act. We must continue humanitarian efforts and provide a path to permanent legal status for our Afghan allies who fought bravely beside Americans.

Learn more about it in this February 26th piece by the San Diego Union Tribune, posted below:

Elected officials in San Diego declare support for Afghan refugee bill

By Andrew Dyer

February 26, 2022

San Diego political leaders and members of the volunteer coalition working to help Afghans leave their war-torn country called for federal legislation to help thousands of evacuees gain legal permanent residence at a news conference Saturday.

Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, Assemblymember Chris Ward, D-San Diego and City Councilmember Chris Cate, R-San Diego, each said they support the bipartisan Afghan Adjustment Act. Advocates say the legislation is needed so that the 70,000 Afghans brought to the U.S. via the Port Parole program won’t be deported when their temporary status expires in six to 18 months.

“Last year, Congress passed a spending bill that included $6.3 billion to help resettle these evacuees,” Peters said. “Now Congress has to do more — we have to pass an Afghan Adjustment Act.”

Peters said that most of the evacuees who came after the fall of Kabul in August would have been eligible for Special Immigrant Visas, but that program is too backlogged to process everyone.

“Humanitarian parole is temporary,” Peters said.

To signal their support for the legislation and the San Diego-led “#AfghanEvac” coalition, San Diego’s congressional districts, the state and county have declared March 1 #AfghanEvac Day, according to a press release. The city will make a similar declaration Tuesday, the release says.

Shawn VanDiver, the San Diego-based Navy veteran who co-founded #AfghanEvac, told the Union-Tribune that more than 40 members of Congress, from both parties, will wear red, white, blue and green pins during Tuesday’s State of the Union speech to show support for the resettlement effort. He anticipates the work of the last six months to be acknowledged during President Joe Biden’s speech, as well.

“There’s no issue that unites veterans across this country quite like this one,” VanDiver said. “If you’ve ever said that you stand with the troops, then you must stand with us on this.”

Lucky Manan, a Special Immigrant Visa holder who previously lived in San Diego but is now living in Texas, was in Afghanistan when the Taliban took over the country last year. He credits #AfghanEvac with helping him and his family escape during the hectic August evacuation at the Kabul Airport.

“I felt compelled to speak here today about the great stress experienced by my fellow Afghans who have arrived here with humanitarian parole — most of them are still struggling,” Manan said.

Housing, work and school are difficult for evacuees who lack permanent residence, he said.

Prince Wafa, who has the same kind of visa, also worked with the U.S. military during the war and immigrated to San Diego in 2014. He said he, too, struggled to find work, and recalled spending his last dollar at a downtown 7-Eleven.

“Now, I own that 7-Eleven,” he said.

When Afghanistan fell, Wafa, too, was there, this time to get his wife out. He credited #AfghanEvac with helping, and in October they were able to fly to Doha, Qatar. They finally arrived in the U.S. on Dec. 1.

Several volunteers from the national coalition are in San Diego for a working retreat to strategize how the organization will continue to press the government to assist evacuated Afghans. Many of those evacuated worked as translators for U.S. military units during the 20-year conflict or as contractors with the government and other U.S.-based organizations.

The #AfghanEvac coalition includes military veterans, congressional staffers and those who work with refugee resettlement.

March Bishop, the Washington, D.C.-based co-founder of #AfghanEvac, called the Afghan Adjustment Act “critical” to the goals of the coalition during an interview with the Union-Tribune Friday. Promises, she said, were made to Afghans to get them to cooperate with the U.S. during the war.

“This country just doesn’t keep its promises,” she said. “The reason we are here is we want to see (it) do a better job keeping those promises.”

Alex Plitsas, an Army veteran and Republican party official from Connecticut, called the promises made to Afghans during the war a “sacred commitment” and called for a bipartisan solution for the challenges of resettlement.

“I wouldn’t be standing here … if it weren’t for the courage and wherewithal of Afghan civilians who chose to stand next to us on the field of battle — or in other capacities — in Afghanistan,” Plitsus said. “They did what they thought was morally right and they stood by us.”

The Afghan Adjustment Act hasn’t been introduced in Congress yet — VanDiver said they’re working to ensure that when it is introduced it is done both in the House and Senate with bipartisan sponsorship.

He expects that to happen within a few weeks, he said.



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