Religion teams urge Biden to evacuate US-affiliated Afghans together with troops

WASHINGTON (RNS) – Faith groups and other humanitarian organizations urge President Joe Biden to evacuate thousands of Afghans from their country in addition to a planned troop withdrawal for two decades of conflict in the region.

A list of 70 organizations signed a letter to the White House on Friday (June 4) demanding that the Biden government bring Afghans to the United States to serve as translators, engineers, clerks, cultural advisors and soldiers have and now goals from the Taliban.

The President has set the deadline for the withdrawal of troops to be September 11, the anniversary of the attacks that triggered the US invasion of Afghanistan.

“The United States has a duty to protect those who have protected us,” the letter said, adding, “As we prepare to retreat, we cannot forsake them, especially as this service to us is them puts in danger; we have to get them to safety in the United States. “

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The letter referred to the US evacuation from the Gulf War in the early 1990s and the approximately 130,000 people brought from Vietnam in 1975. He also called on Congress to approve special immigrant visas for those deported from Afghanistan, noting that 17,000 Afghans already have SIV applications.

Those who have supported or assisted the US, as well as 53,000 members of their families, according to the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, “are already at risk because of the support they have given to our troops and our government, and are at increased risk as the US are withdrawing from Afghanistan, ”the letter said.

Religious organizations that have added their names to the letter are LIRS, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Episcopal Church, Emgage Action, HIAS, American Muslim Empowerment Network, Catholic Family Center, Church World Service, Congregation B’nai Yisrael, Pax Christi USA and World Relief, among others.

In a press interview with reporters, LIRS President and CEO Krish O’Mara Vignarajah said her organization sent a separate letter to the White House on the matter last month. Vignarajah said LIRS – which has signed a refugee resettlement contract with the federal government and helped relocate 11,000 Afghan and Iraqi SIV owners – has since had “private talks” with officials about the evacuation, but no “firm commitments.” ” receive.

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Vignarajah warned that the SIV application process has “collapsed”: the process is usually required by law to take no more than nine months, but is now often closer to three years.

As the final deadline for troop withdrawal drew near, she said, “The math here is bleak, but it’s clear: The US has less than four months to clear a year-long backlog.”

She called on the government to appoint a person to oversee the effort and raise the cap on SIV approval. And while she was optimistic that the Pentagon is reportedly investigating the conduct of an evacuation of US-affiliated Afghans, she stressed that time may be running out.

“Frankly, this is something that has to happen now,” she said. “We can hardly wait for September 11th. We see it as a ticking time bomb. “

The Episcopal Public Policy Network Twitter account expressed a similar sentiment on Friday, saying, “We must honor our commitments to the (Afghans) who have saved so many American lives. We can’t let them down – we have to get them to safety in the US. “

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