Veterans, volunteers and advocates are camping outside the U.S. Capitol building and say they will not leave until Congress passes the Afghan Adjustment Act. It is a bipartisan bill that will allow Afghans who supported the U.S. military during the 20 year war, to stay in the United States.
Lawmakers and veterans alike fear the Afghans who went to battle alongside U.S. soldiers will be killed for their efforts now that the Taliban is in charge.
“It’s a certain death sentence for all of them. It might not be today or tomorrow, but certainly one day,” Safi Rauf, Founder and President of Human First Coalition, said.
At Capitol Hill, Rauf and the team have food and solar panels to charge electronics. That’s a lot more than he had when he was taken prisoner by the Taliban for 105 days.
“I know they continue to torture people, they continue to kill people, they continue to kill Afghans,” Rauf said.
The bill expands eligibility for Special Immigration Visas. Ultimately it would allow Afghans, including some already here on humanitarian grounds, to go through additional vetting and obtain permanent legal status. The group hopes the bill will be included in a government funding package that needs to be approved by Sept. 30.
“If we do nothing right now, next August 78,000 people are going to, at once, drop in on the immigration court system. And simply put, we asked the federal immigration court system – can you handle that all at once? Like, oh my god no,” Matt Zeller, Senior Adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said.
Zeller is a U.S. Afghan war vet who was embedded with the Afghan military. His translator saved his life in battle when he shot and killed two Taliban fighters that Zeller said were about to kill him.
“And I made him a promise that if I could ever repay that life debt, all he had to do was ask,” Zeller said.
He is continuing to repay that debt by working to get this bill passed.