In the dying days of 2022, the US Congress failed to agree on the residency status of Afghan refugees who arrived in the US after the Taliban take-over of Afghanistan, plunging the future of thousands of men, women and children into uncertainty.
It was hoped that the Congress would reach an agreement on the immigration status of Afghan refugees as part of its 2022 end of the year legislative programme. But the bipartisan bill, the Afghan Adjustment Act, designed to expand eligibility for special visas to some Afghan nationals who were directly employed by the US government agencies, failed to get through.
The deadlock means anxious wait for refugees, with hopes that the new Congress clears the path for them to obtain the right to residency status in the US. The delay has already had an impact on the lives of thousands of Afghan citizens hoping for their futures to be settled.
Aftabuddin Kalakani was evacuated from Kabul just after the Taliban arrived. He worked for both the Afghan and US governments.
“The Congress deadlock has meant I can’t work, set a business and have access to public services. My family are stuck in Afghanistan,” he told KabulNow.
Worried for his family, Kalakani said that “I am seen as an enemy by Taliban for my work and for being in America, and so are my family. They are a target and have to keep moving in order to avoid getting caught. And until I have clarity on my future and have a route to permanent residency, I can’t help them.”
“I worry all the time. My mental health has been badly affected,” Kalakani added.
Expressing disappointment at the previous Congress’s failure, Democrat Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, a co-sponsor of the bill, told KabulNow:
“Our nation was built by those who fled their home countries seeking safer, brighter futures for themselves. It is our moral obligation as Americans to welcome refugees, and that means passing the Afghan Adjustment Act.
“I am disappointed that this bipartisan legislation was not included in the recent omnibus funding legislation but have hope that an opportunity to pass it will arise in the near future. In the meantime, I remain committed to ensuring that Afghan refugees have the support they need to build new lives in the United States for themselves and their families.”
With the new Congress led by a fractured Republican Party in place, and an investigation on the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan looming, many Afghan refugees await their fate with trepidation and hope that they will be given the chance to plan their futures in America.