Merkley Introduces Legislation to Provide Smooth Landing to Afghan Evacuees in U.S.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley today announced that he has introduced the Welcoming Evacuees Coming from Overseas to Mitigate Effects of Displacement (WELCOMED) Act of 2021 in the U.S. Senate. The legislation was previously introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives Seth Moulton (D-MA) and Don Bacon (R-NE). 

Because the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan made rapid evacuations out of the country critical for Afghans who had aided America during the war, many Afghan evacuees have recently arrived in the U.S. on humanitarian parole or other expedited processes. But because these evacuees have not formally been granted refugee status yet, they have not been eligible for services that traditionally aid refugees with getting settled and beginning a new life in the United States. The WELCOMED Act would fix this technicality and help ensure that Afghan evacuees get a successful start in their new communities.

“Over 20 years of war, thousands of Afghans put their own lives on the line to aid the United States in our military mission,” said Merkley. “Honoring those risks and sacrifices by helping them rebuild their lives in the U.S. is not only the morally right thing to do, it will also benefit communities across our nation if we help them do so successfully. Refugees contribute enormously to the economies of the communities where they relocate, and we should do everything in our power to help our Afghan allies get off to a strong start in their new homes. The evacuation was just the first step—now it’s on us to do right by Afghan refugees in the short, medium, and long terms.”

The WELCOMED Act would change the wording of America’s refugee policies so that rescued Afghans would be eligible for the same basic services and resources that are typically made available to newly arriving refugees in America. This includes reception and placement services that would equip these evacuees—many of whom fled quickly and arrived with virtually nothing—with the basic money and resources to resettle themselves and their families in the United States. Merkley’s office worked extensively with eligible Afghans to help them evacuate where possible, and is now assisting with the refugee resettlement process for evacuees with Oregon ties.