How a new bipartisan law will help our Afghan allies resettle in the US

While we managed to rescue at least 100,000 of our Afghan allies, tens of thousands still remain. Make no mistake, rescuing those still at the mercy of the Taliban should be our most urgent priority. Images of desperate Afghans chasing after departing planes may no longer be plastering our TV screens, and that is to the advantage of the brutally merciless Taliban. On a daily basis, my team and I hear from Afghans who are hiding in basements or worse because they’re being hunted down for helping the United States.

That said, we should also ensure the success of our Afghan allies who have made it to our shores.

Earlier this month, Congress took an important step by passing a bill I wrote— the Welcoming Evacuees Coming from Overseas to Mitigate Effects of Displacement Act of 2021—also known as the WELCOMED ActRep. Don Bacon, a Republican from Nebraska introduced the bill with me, making it bipartisan, and President Biden signed it into law.

The bill addresses a major challenge for many of the more than 100,000 Afghans being relocated to the United States: getting the basic resources afforded to refugees. Because we started the evacuation so late and had to do paperwork on the fly, State Department officials had to use a technical loophole to get around the forms that are normally required, which barred many of our allies from these standard benefits. These evacuees are Afghan-American heroes. They shouldn’t be punished for the way we brought them out.

Here are just a few of the major things this bill will accomplish for our friends:

Employment: 

Even with an economy quickly recovering from the pandemic, the U.S. has 10 million unfilled jobs. The good news is Afghans are ready to work. I met recently with an interpreter that was resettled to my district who hopes to be a commercial driver, something we desperately need. The WELCOMED Act will provide evacuees with employment authorization and the resources to fill these jobs so they can contribute to strengthening the American economy. 

Many of these Afghans are entering the U.S. as lawyers, engineers or accountants with advanced degrees, and will have to begin in entry-level jobs. But they are willing to work, and we have work for them to do.

Housing: 

Speaking of working hard: Imagine working hard enough to buy your very own home, but having to abandon it before even being able to sell it.

That’s the reality for thousands of our evacuees. Amid a strained housing marketincreasingly high rents and record-levels inflation, securing housing for our evacuees is proving to be the steepest challenge. The WELCOMED Act will equip evacuees with a stipend to put towards rent.

Health care: 

For more than two decades, Afghanistan has been a warzone rife with conflict and instability. As a result, our allies, particularly those who served alongside our military, as troops, translators or drivers, are arriving with complex physical and mental health care needs

The WELCOMED Act will connect our evacuees with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement who will provide our friends with long-term medical assistance to combat everything from post-traumatic stress and depression to heart disease, respiratory issues and more.

The effort to secure life-saving benefits for our allies who stood beside us for the past two decades has been a united American priority and a personal goal of mine since I arrived in Congress in 2015. The WELCOMED Act is already working to give these heroes and their families the chance to build happy, sustainable futures here in their new home. 

I look forward to witnessing them realize the American dream, and I’m grateful to my Democratic and Republican colleagues in Congress for working so hard to give them the start they deserve.

Moulton represents the 6th District in Massachusetts and is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Tags Afghan Americans Afghanistan conflict Joe Biden Taliban War in Afghanistan
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