White House to Extend Stay of Afghan Refugees

May 2, 2023

The Biden Administration will extend by another two years the stay of tens of thousands of Afghans who fled the Taliban amid the 2021 U.S. military withdrawal, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

According to the AP’s White House sources, as soon as this summer eligible Afghan refugees will be allowed to renew temporary work permits and protections from deportation. The protections were initially given in 2021, and renewed last year.

The measure is a temporary fix for more than 78,000 Afghans who worked for the U.S. and have applied for special visas, according to a nongovernmental organization (NGO) report by the Association of Wartime Allies.

Legislation to create a path to residency for these Afghans, including translators, interpreters and other strategic partners, was stalled during the lame duck session of the 117th Congress. Bipartisan lawmakers hoped to add the Afghan Adjustment Act, ensuring the Afghans’ legal residency, to the end of the year omnibus spending bill. However, supporters of the bill believed their efforts were forestalled by a singular lawmaker: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees immigration issues.

Grassley has argued that the bill goes too far by including evacuees beyond those “who were our partners over the last 20 years,” and that it provides a road to residency without the proper screening required.

Some lawmakers are hopeful that if advanced screening measures added to the bill, it could pass in a now-Republican-controlled House and a slim Democratic majority in the Senate.

“Afghans have been languishing on our shores awaiting a long-term answer and Congress continues to play games with their future,” said Shawn Van Diver, a Navy veteran who runs #AfghanEvac, a coalition supporting Afghan resettlement efforts. He said he was happy to see that the Biden Administration would allow them to stay while Congress works to find a solution.

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