(Washington, DC) - U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, announced today that she will cosponsor the bipartisan Afghan Adjustment Act, led by U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The legislation would allow Afghans with temporary status in the United States to undergo additional vetting and apply for permanent legal residency. Currently, Afghans who were admitted on temporary status can only apply for permanent legal status through the asylum system or Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, which both face severe backlogs and long processing times. Shaheen has worked across the aisle for nearly a decade to reform and improve the Afghan SIV program.
In September, Shaheen released a comprehensive special report on the Afghan SIV program and included proposed reforms to address systemic issues with the program. The report is available in full here.
“The U.S. made a promise to our Afghan allies to keep them safe – tens of thousands of whom have now made homes in America. Those who came to the U.S. during the evacuation and relocation deserve the opportunity to apply for permanent status – that’s why the Afghan Adjustment Act is so important,” said Shaheen. “As a leader who’s fought to protect the rights and safety of Afghan women and strengthen the SIV process to aid Afghan allies, I remain committed to ensuring the U.S. upholds its duty to the Afghan people.”
The legislation was originally introduced in August by Senators Klobuchar, Graham, Coons (D-DE), Blunt (R-MO), Blumenthal (D-CT) and Murkowski (R-AK). Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Peter Meijer (R-MI) lead companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
Modeled after bipartisan bills that Congress has passed in the wake of other humanitarian crises, including the Vietnam War, the Afghan Adjustment Act would:
- Allow Afghans on humanitarian status who submit to additional vetting to apply for permanent legal status. For these Afghans, the primary options under current law to gain permanent status are through our asylum system or the burdensome SIV process;
- Expand the SIV program to include previously omitted groups, including the Female Tactical Teams of Afghanistan, the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command, the Afghan Air Force, and the Special Mission Wing of Afghanistan;
- Establish a task force to develop and implement a strategy for supporting Afghans outside of the United States who are eligible for SIV status and require the Department of State to respond to congressional inquiries about SIV applications.
The legislation is endorsed by numerous organizations, including the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Veterans for American Ideals, With Honor Action, Association of Wartime Allies, Church World Service, National Immigration Forum, International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), Afghans For a Better Tomorrow, Voice for Refuge Action Fund, Immigrant ARC, Afghan-American Foundation, Human Rights First and the Advocates for Human Rights.
Senator Shaheen historically partnered with Senator John McCain (R-AZ) on efforts to protect Afghans who have risked their lives to support U.S. efforts abroad by strengthening the Afghan SIV program. She has led bipartisan efforts in Congress to reauthorize additional Afghan SIVs. In addition, Senator Shaheen supported legislation to establish a nonpartisan, independent commission to examine every aspect of the war in Afghanistan, including the political and strategic decisions that transformed a focused military mission into a vast, nation-building campaign that became the longest war in U.S. history.