Background and Rationale for Support Continued Safety for Afghan Evacuees
Following the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in August 2021, over 130,000 Afghans were evacuated. Tens of thousands of these Afghans have or will soon enter the United States with humanitarian parole, an immigration status that offers legal protection and work authorization for one or two years. However, unlike an immigrant visa or refugee program, humanitarian parole does not lead to permanent residency. In order to resettle in the United States, Afghan evacuees will have to apply to an already existing immigration pathway -- namely, asylum -- unless Congress passes an Afghan Adjustment Act, which would offer parolees an opportunity to apply for legal permanent resident status.
Currently, the asylum system is backlogged by over 400,000 cases and takes years to navigate. Extensive paperwork and documentation is needed to complete a case, and many Afghans were forced to destroy their important documents to avoid Taliban retaliation before they fled. An Afghan Adjustment Act would allow the tens of thousands of Afghans who have fled persecution by the Taliban to seek permanent refuge in the U.S. without overwhelming an already overburdened system and unnecessarily slowing down the process for those who are already in the system and seeking protection.
In response to previous humanitarian crises, Congress has passed similar legislation. After the Cuban Revolution, the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, and U.S. military actions in Iraq, Congress passed adjustment acts to allow people who had escaped their countries and entered the United States with parole status the opportunity to apply for legal permanent resident status. Similarly, an Afghan Adjustment Act is needed to provide Afghans an opportunity to rebuild their lives in safety – without the fear and limitations of an uncertain immigration status, and without the trauma of attempting to navigate an immigration system that is not adequately prepared for their arrival.
There are numerous callings throughout Scripture to show love to “the foreigner,” grounded in the experience the Israelites had of being foreigners themselves. One example is, “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt” (Leviticus 19:33-34).
The people of God are instructed to show tangible care for those who are vulnerable, including the foreigner in their midst, e.g. “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner” (Leviticus 19:9-10).
In Ezekiel, a lack of concern for and a failure to care for those in need is described as sinful: “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16:49).
And the presence of Christ is described as experienced through encounters with “the stranger”: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matthew 25:25-36).
Much of the general theological underpinnings of welcome and hospitality toward vulnerable immigrants can be found in the 2010 report to Synod in migration.
When it comes to refugees specifically—those who are driven from their homes because of persecution for specific reasons, including religious persecution—it is important to remember that the roots of the Reformation spring from the experience of religious persecution. John Calvin himself was a refugee, and ministered to other refugees while in Geneva, giving shape to the theological framework of hospitality that he outlined in his Biblical commentaries. This historical memory grounds and motivates our Reformed witness today.
Synod calls CRC churches to take action in a variety of ways:
Christians should engage in thoughtful study and discussion of the economic, political, social, and spiritual issues involved in the church’s ministry with immigrant people. This can include the study of the 2010 Synodical Migration Report.
Following our scriptural calling to welcome the stranger, we demonstrate Christ’s love to the marginalized, offering assistance for needy immigrants and for their children in terms of financial assistance, food, clothing, and shelter.
We advocate for reforms to our immigration laws in the United States and Canada so that they may be fair, just, and equitable for immigrants, particularly for vulnerable populations such as refugees.