Wyden, Merkley Urge Biden Administration to Take Advantage of Options to Expedite Evacuation of Afghans

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today joined 27 of their colleagues in a letter urging the Biden administration to expedite efforts to evacuate Afghans at risk as the situation in Afghanistan deteriorates.

In their letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, Wyden, Merkley and the other senators specifically pushed for the administration to explore the use of parole to speed up entry for Afghans with already approved visa petitions.

“As the situation on the ground in Afghanistan becomes more dangerous, thousands of Afghans are desperately seeking to leave the country to avoid possible persecution,” the senators wrote. “We fully support efforts to provide humanitarian protection to those Afghan nationals in need, however, we write to draw your attention to the possibility that there are many nationals from Afghanistan in the family and employment-based immigration system for whom a visa is not yet available due to visa caps in immigration law.” 

The senators continued,We urge you to expeditiously determine whether such Afghan nationals are in fact in any such backlogs, and if so, explore the use of parole to facilitate entry for that likely small population in order to reunite families and save lives amidst this humanitarian crisis. Every option to save human life should be on the table, including this prudent proposal, which could result in the immediate reunification of families and come at little cost to the government, since sponsoring family members assume responsibility for the foreign national.”

“[T]he United States has a moral obligation to provide assistance to expedite the evacuation of Afghans at risk. Individuals with approved visa petitions have already completed multiple steps of the immigration process, and are merely waiting for a visa to become available. We ask that you expeditiously determine whether any such Afghan nationals are in any backlog, and use the authority accorded to you by law to facilitate the immediate evacuation of this at-risk population to the United States,” the senators concluded.

In addition to Wyden and Merkley, other senators signing the letter led by U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) are U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), Maizie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.).

The full text of the letter is here.