Grassley cites security concerns in opposing Afghan legalization bill, but it addresses exactly that

Demonstrators gather to support new Afghan immigrants, outside of the Capitol, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

“The senior officers called for Congress to attach the legislation to the upcoming omnibus, which will provide funding for federal agency budgets through Sept. 30 and also carry several critical pieces of legislation ranging from money to defend Ukraine to changes in presidential election laws,” The Washington Post reports. The bill, introduced by bipartisan lawmakers last summer, would put eligible Afghans onto a pathway to legalization. Thousands are here through humanitarian parole, which only offers temporary relief. The bill would also expand efforts to aid those left behind.

The retired military leaders and officers tell congressional leaders in their letter that the bill’s passage would “honor our military veterans and civilians who sacrificed greatly in Afghanistan.” The letter was organized by #AfghanEvac. Its founder, Navy veteran Shawn VanDiver, told The Washington Post that he began to get responses also immediately.

“Many veterans and frontline civilians, as private citizens, have borne the burden of working to
save our allies who were left behind or left with an uncertain future,” the retired leaders and officers continued in the letter. “They feel the urgency. They suffer vicarious trauma and moral injury in their continuing efforts. We should all join them in the fight to honor our promises.” The Dec. 17 letter was followed one day later by a call from the coalition of veterans organizations, who said in their letter to congressional leaders that they “have a code in the US military, ‘no one left behind.’”

“We must provide genuine and lasting protection to the Afghans who have made it safely to the United States and to those who have been left behind,” American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Student Veterans of America, and With Honor Action wrote. “The longer we go without meeting this promise, the more our moral injuries fester.”

While the bill has GOP support, Republicans like Chuck Grassley has been among those throwing cold water on the bill, supposedly out of security concerns. But the bill addresses exactly what Grassley claims he’s concerned about by establishing “rigorous vetting requirements” for applicants, National Immigration Forum said. Grassley was also among Republicans who last year issued statements critical of the Biden administration’s evacuation plan, and demanded the president devote all means necessary to ensure every American citizen and all eligible Afghan partners are successfully evacuated.” What about doing your part, Chuck?

“We promised to stand by our allies, those who served in uniform and those who we championed
to publicly defend women’s and democratic rights, often at risk to themselves and their families,” the groups continued in their letter. “The U.S. government made that promise as well and keeping it assures that the American handshake still means something. A promise on which, like us, the next generation of military service members lives will rely.”

Passing this bill through the spending bill if necessary would be a political and human rights win. Polling from this past fall found that while most Americans were unfamiliar with the Afghan Adjustment Act, nearly 60% expressed support “after reading a neutral description” of the legislation. That support jumped to 76% when voters are informed that prominent veterans groups support the legislation. But legislation putting young undocumented immigrants is also overwhelmingly popular, and Republicans have appeared to fail on that.


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