President Biden Must Act Now to Save Afghans in Danger

Monday, August 16, 2021

In response to the escalating humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, the #WelcomeWithDignity called on President Biden to immediately expand and expedite the processing of evacuation flights for Afghans in danger and provide them with humanitarian parole in the United States. The #WelcomeWithDignity campaign believes everyone has the right to be safe and to seek safety and the footage of ordinary Afghans scrambling to avoid retribution at the hands of the Taliban show what desperate situations people in Afghanistan face right now. CGRS joins the #WelcomeWithDignity campaign in urging bold action from the United States to help mitigate what could be an unfathomable loss of life and yet another refugee crisis in the region.

“I’m writing this statement as I simultaneously try to get my relatives in Afghanistan out of danger. President Biden’s decision to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan during the height of the summer fighting season when the Taliban are most active caused this current level of chaos," said Bilal Askaryar, communications coordinator for the #WelcomeWithDignity campaign and Afghan-American activist. "Ordinary Afghans didn’t have time to settle their affairs or move to safer areas--they are now refugees in their own country. The Taliban are already going door to door finding journalists, prominent women, and marking the doors of ethnic and religious minorities. In order to prevent inestimable amounts of bloodshed, President Biden must immediately order the US military to secure safe passage out of the country for Afghans who are at risk and provide them humanitarian parole into the United States. The time for politics is over; we need to save lives now.”

"Afghans who supported the U.S. mission deserve the full and unequivocal protection of the United States government. Let history show that America stood by its word, protected human life, and supported all those who believe in democracy, freedom, and human rights," said Mohammed Naeem, Senior Manager for Strategy and Partnerships at the American Immigration Council. “As an Afghan-American, I’m very concerned about my brothers and sisters in Afghanistan who will suffer, unless the international community acts  with the urgency, decisiveness, and resolve needed to meet this moment and avoid tragic loss of life.”

“Moments such as these hit close to home, as my family was saved through the SIV program. The images I saw today weigh heavy on my chest, as I was once in a similar situation. I want to be clear: we cannot betray our allies by leaving them behind where they will be vulnerable to human rights violations under Taliban rule. The Biden administration needs to act fast and provide emergency humanitarian parole for all Afghans who are in danger, including Afghan women. The situation in Afghanistan is quickly escalating, and the time to act is now,” said Basma Alawee, Campaign Manager, We Are All America. “We need to keep in mind the countless Afghan women whose voices are not being heard. Many are terrified of what their future brings. Finding refuge in the United States could be the only option for survival for many of these women.”

“We stand in solidarity with the Afghan people and urge the U.S. government to swiftly bring those under most imminent threat to safety,” said Karen Musalo, Director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). “This means extending emergency humanitarian parole and chartering direct evacuation flights for women human rights defenders, politicians, journalists, and other highly visible women, members of vulnerable religious and ethnic minorities, and others at risk because of their assistance to our country over the years. The U.S. government has the capacity and an urgent moral imperative to act now to save lives.”

“As an Indigenous women-led organization, we call on the current administration to take action and provide emergency humanitarian parole for Afghan refugees who are in danger,” said Dr. Jessica Hernandez (Maya Ch’orti/Binnizá), Climate Justice Policy Strategist for International Mayan League.  “Settler colonialism and U.S. interference has played a role in forced displacement that has resulted from violence and climate change. As a country, our politicians and administration can help mitigate this and support refugees escaping these conditions.”

“Thousands of women put their lives at risk over the last two decades to advance the rights of women and girls across Afghanistan, many of whom helped the U.S. mission,” said Gayatri Patel, vice president for external relations at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “We all remember the abhorrent treatment they received under Taliban rule in the past and we have no reason to believe this time will be significantly better. The Biden administration has a moral obligation to ensure they are evacuated and safely resettled.  We cannot leave these women and their families stranded. They must be evacuated on par with U.S. embassy personnel.” 

"The Biden Administration must take immediate action to uphold our promise to protect the tens of thousands of Afghan allies and their families who are in imminent danger," said Sunil Varghese, Policy Director at the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). "We are receiving desperate messages from clients who have followed all the rules, met all the requirements, and waited for years to receive their visas. We need to vastly expand evacuation efforts to the United States before it is too late."

"Following the long history of suffering that the U.S. has inflicted onto the Afghan people, we must prioritize ensuring humanitarian parole for Afghans in danger and evacuate all Afghan Special Immigrant Visa holders and their families," said Jonathan Goldman, Executive Director of the Student Clinic for Immigrant Justice. "So many of the modern-day problems that force people to migrate have been caused by the U.S. and colonialism, and we cannot let this conflict be a repeat of this history. We must protect those in danger, especially women, children, members of religious and ethnic minorities, and rise to this moment to take responsibility for the suffering caused by the U.S."

"As we see the heartbreaking images from Afghanistan, the horrific consequences of the Biden administration's failure to offer even minimal protection to asylum seekers fleeing persecution is laid bare,” said Executive Director Lindsay Toczylowski, Immigrant Defenders Law Center. “The failure of this administration to reopen our doors to the most vulnerable and reimagine our protection system is inexcusable. The Biden administration must immediately charter direct evacuation flights for human rights defenders, Afghan women activists, and those most imminently under threat. The time to welcome refugees and asylum seekers is now; no more delays."

“Despite ongoing warnings about the dire consequences of such a hasty withdrawal, we are now left watching thousands of Afghans flee for their lives and safety,” said Nili Sarit Yossinger, Executive Director of Refugee Congress. “When we ask others to put themselves at risk for us, we have a moral obligation to ensure their safety. This response we are seeing - this is not who we are as a nation. We are failing our allies and this Administration must take action immediately to keep our promises to the thousands of people who put themselves at risk.”

“The Biden administration must leave no stone unturned in fulfilling our obligations under international laws to the thousands of Afghans now in imminent danger, especially our allies, women, children and members of religious and ethnic minorities historically targeted by the Taliban,” said Margaret Huang, President and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center. “It is devastating the U.S. government has failed to act to protect these vulnerable and targeted people. This must be made right and those individuals must be provided the protections they, and every human, should be afforded – safety from persecution.”

“The current course of action by the White House has only fanned the flames of this humanitarian catastrophe,” said Paul O’Brien, executive director of Amnesty International USA. “Every moment that the Biden administration continues not to course correct could have horrific consequences, exacerbating the already atrocious failures to support the people of Afghanistan, including the Afghans who risked their lives and those of their families to provide assistance to the U.S.”

“We have an opportunity – and an obligation – to act immediately to protect people whose lives and freedom are in peril,” said Michele Garnett McKenzie, Deputy Director of The Advocates for Human Rights. “Experience tells us that, when U.S. troops withdraw from protracted conflicts, the people who stood with us now stand in the line of fire. The United States can and must act swiftly to provide orderly protection in accordance with international human rights law, including to our allies.”

“Our obligation to the people of Afghanistan did not end with the withdrawal of U.S. forces. For decades, Afghans have worked with and assisted U.S. troops. We are obligated to ensure that Afghans now at risk due to their association with the U.S. as well as ethnic and religious minorities and women are safely evacuated and resettled. This is the time for action, not politics,” said Karen Tumlin, founder and director of Justice Action Center.

“We stand in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan, whose future and livelihood is in dismay,” said Mary Meg McCarthy, Executive Director of the National Immigrant Justice Center. “After decades of U.S. warfare, Afghans have yet to experience the safety and dignity they deserve—and are even less likely to now, following the chaotic events of the past few days. We urge the U.S. asylum and refugee system to protect women, children, and all vulnerable people of Afghanistan.”

“The US has the capacity to ensure the safe and immediate evacuation of Afghans in danger, particularly human rights defenders, women’s rights activists, and members of ethnic and religious minority groups," said Noah Gottschalk, Global Policy Lead for Oxfam America. "The Biden administration must use all the available tools at its disposal to welcome them in the US, including by expanding and accelerating visa processing for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) and P1 and P2s, as well as offering humanitarian parole. Now is not the time for half-measures. The US has a moral obligation to the Afghan people who have literally risked their lives in pursuit of peace, development, and human rights, particularly over the last 20 years. We cannot afford to let another day or another hour pass without bold and rapid action.”

“We are deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of the people of Afghanistan,” said Archi Pyati, CEO of the Tahirih Justice Center. “In particular, women and girls may be the most impacted by the ongoing instability and violence. Narratives about ending gender-based violence is often used as an excuse for U.S. imperialism, though pathways to protection may be closed to those most vulnerable. We call on the administration to abide by its obligation and long-standing commitment to provide opportunities for safety and protection for all those impacted by the current crisis in Afghanistan.”

“For months, we warned the Biden administration of the rising threat to our Afghan allies as the U.S. sped its withdrawal from Afghanistan. But it failed to lay out a pathway for our allies to be evacuated to safety, and now, that failure will almost certainly cost the lives of some of those the U.S. promised to protect. But it’s not too late,” said Jennifer Quigley, senior director for government affairs at Human Rights First. “The Biden administration must immediately ensure the airport in Kabul is secured with all necessary military assets required to get Afghans who served with American military and civil society actors to safety. There need to be several flights a day to evacuate at risk Afghans, and the evacuation process must continue as long as possible to bring as many of our allies as possible to safety in the United States. The legal authority exists for this to be done via parole immediately. If the Biden administration does not act swiftly, we will have broken our promise to leave no one behind.”