U.S. can make lives easier for Afghan refugees
The end of the 20-year war in Afghanistan brings a conflicting array of emotions. Most Americans are apparently glad to be out of the nation’s longest war. But with the same Taliban that we dislodged in 2001 taking power so quickly upon our departure from the scene, there are just as many wondering what the past two decades of war were accomplishing.
What many people can agree upon, though, is what we owe the people of Afghanistan who were vital to this country’s mission over the past 20 years and who could be in danger of reprisals with the U.S. having left the scene. That’s why the evacuation that followed the end of the U.S. military mission was so essential, not just for American citizens in Afghanistan, but for the thousands of Afghan nationals who were vital to the war effort.
Despite early signs of chaos, that evacuation effort ended up transporting thousands of people out of the Taliban-controlled country, giving them a chance to live lives without fear of retribution. But the next question that arises is where they go from here. To pay back so many who gave so much in service to this country, we owe them the opportunity to make a new life here in the United States.
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, a Democrat who has represented the state’s Fourth Congressional District for more than a decade, is pushing a plan to make that resettlement process easier. Himes and other representatives are calling for a waiver of fee applications for humanitarian parole for Afghans trying to enter the United States.
Currently, anyone applying for humanitarian parole must pay a $575 filing fee. Waiving that charge would help expedite resettlement.
The members of Congress pushing this waiver are clear that there would still be plenty of vetting for people seeking resettlement. “There are procedures we must follow to ensure the security of the humanitarian parole process,” Himes said. But as for the filing fee, he added, “It’s exactly the type of red tape we need to cut through if we’re serious about saving as many lives as we can.”
Despite the efforts by the U.S. upon leaving Afghanistan, there were apparently thousands of people who had wanted to leave who were unable to and could now face reprisals. The human toll for our time in that country will be felt for many years. The least we can do is help as many people as we can to move on with their lives in a new, safer environment.
Whatever good was accomplished in the past 20 years would have been impossible without interpreters and others in Afghanistan who provided assistance, often at substantial risk. The Department of Homeland Security can take a small step to help pay them back. It needs to make sure it happens.