CV NEWS FEED // The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) petitioned Congress to grant permanent asylum to Afghan citizens who helped American troops during the nation’s 20-year war.
After the Biden administration’s botched withdrawal from the country in the summer of 2021 culminated in the Taliban returning to power, many Afghans who had helped Americans were abandoned and left at the mercy of the new regime. Others managed to escape to the United States, but still do not have permanent asylum.
On July 13, Republican members of both houses of Congress introduced two versions of the Afghan Adjustment Act. The bill aims to “provide support for nationals of Afghanistan who supported the United States mission in Afghanistan,” as well as “adequate vetting for parolees from Afghanistan, adjustment of status for eligible individuals, and special immigrant status for at-risk Afghan allies and relatives of certain members of the Armed Forces.”
Speaking on behalf of the USCCB, Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso penned a letter to members of Congress Tuesday in which he called passing this legislation a “moral imperative for a country such as ours that embraces both freedom and the rule of law.”
Seitz, who leads a diocese on the United States–Mexico border, currently chairs the USCCB Committee on Migration.
The bishop said that many of the people who stand to benefit from the proposed law “served alongside U.S. servicemembers in Afghanistan or are the family members of those individuals.” The bishop stressed that “return to Afghanistan is not a realistic option” for these individuals, and furthermore, “their ability to remain in the United States permanently and participate fully in our society is severely limited under current law, even after an unprecedented effort to secure their relocation.”
Nearly two years since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, over 85% of those evacuated remain dependent on humanitarian parole or other temporary protections, and the vast majority are unlikely to attain asylum or special immigrant status. This is untenable—for the families themselves, their employers, federal agencies, and the communities they now call home.
The Afghan Adjustment Act would address this defect, fulfilling our nation’s promise to these families, demonstrating the United States’ commitment to its allies, and reaffirming the importance of humanitarian protection.
Seitz continued his letter by aguing that refusing to give asylum to the Afghan nationals who helped the American war effort is inconsistent with Catholic social teaching.
Catholic social teaching upholds the importance of full participation by all who inhabit a society, considering it both a right and a duty. To arbitrarily deny that participation is an injustice and contrary to Pope Francis’ appeal for communities that are “ready to welcome, protect, promote and integrate everyone, without distinctions and without excluding anyone.”
Reporting for The Catholic News Agency Thursday, Peter Pinedo added that
since the Taliban takeover, religious freedom has steadily and dramatically declined in Afghanistan, according to testimony by religious freedom advocates at a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations hearing on Tuesday.
The Afghan Adjustment Act was first introduced last year but died in committee, failing to make it to the floor for a vote.
In addition to the USCCB, several veterans’ organizations, including The American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, also support the bill’s passage.
Cotton’s sponsorship of the bill is notable, given that he is often described as a hardliner on immigration and crime. In a 2022 interview with Politico, Cotton stated that he does not intend to “soften” his hawkish stance on immigration “at all, especially under current circumstances.”