August 20, 2021
As an organization that serves refugees from all around the world, we are heartbroken by the present news and cannot forget our past. FIRM works with people who came as refugees from Afghanistan, from Syria, from Iraq, from Laos, from Vietnam, from the Ukraine and other countries. We have the deep privilege to build communities of hope with New Americans, and see every day the gifts that refugees bring to this country and to our city. As we watch the news along with many of you, we are heartbroken and horrified. We remember the times when this has happened before, and the pain of what is to come next, unless we act.
We remember how so many Southeast Asian families lost their loved ones while fleeing through hostile forces in order to reach a bordering country. After the US had withdrawn, the families of former soldiers had to flee their towns. Residents of the base/town of Long Cheng were left behind, surrounded on all sides by armed forces after the top few thousand were evacuated out by air. After the Secret War was left behind, with so many soldiers killed in war, some still boys themselves, so many babies and children were lost, because there was no safe way to flee once Laos had fallen to the Pathet Lao.
We see too many resemblances between the footage at Kabul airport, the images from Saigon in ‘75 and the stories we have heard of the evacuation of Long Cheng. We know that it took strong advocacy, creative partnerships, the support of faith communities and courageous politicians to create the policies needed to begin to address the depth of the harm caused by US action and inaction, to transform our US refugee system to match that moment. We know that we have learned so much in the forty years since 1981 that can help us meet today. We know that every day counts for the people who have the most to lose under the new regime: human rights defenders, journalists, former US allies, women professionals, and people waiting for their paperwork to clear. We hope that the US can learn from the past and that our Afghan allies will not have to wait five or thirty years to be welcomed to the US as refugees, and that when they arrive, a full welcome will be waiting.
Afghan-Fresnans are deeply worried about their family members stuck in Afghanistan. Whether their relatives were visiting family and have green cards here, or if they are still waiting for old applications to be processed, or if they are now at risk in a way that they weren’t before this week. We continue to listen and invite you to join us in the following actions.
- We call for the immediate processing of all SIV, P1, P2 and parole requests previously submitted from Afghanistan.
- We call for the expedited processing of all applications by Afghans now at risk due to their previous work experience or having relatives in the US
- We call on our Congressmen and our President to ensure that there are safe exits for every person at risk of persecution in Afghanistan.
- We call for the designation of Afghans for Temporary Protected Status to prevent deportations and other returns to Afghanistan from the United States.
- We call for a drastic increase in the number of refugees resettled in this year.
We invite our friends, neighbors and faith communities to join us in advocating for these five things, to stay tuned for more updates, and to be a part of welcoming refugees to the US. We know that it will take all of us working together to do what this moment requires of us.