Washington D.C., Aug 2, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).
Leading U.S. bishops on Friday welcomed Afghan nationals to the United States who had assisted the United States’ military, diplomatic, and humanitarian operations in Afghanistan.
As part of the official withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, the United States expedited the immigration process for certain Afghan nationals and their families who had helped the U.S. forces, diplomatic corps, and government humanitarian personnel in the country. Afghans assisted as translators and interpreters, or provided security and transportation.
The first flight of nationals from Afghanistan with Special Immigrant Visas, as part of the expedited process, arrived in the United States on Friday.
“We are proud to have the opportunity to welcome and assist those who have kept Americans safe in Afghanistan,” stated Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, and Bishop Mario Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chair of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, in a joint statement on Friday.
“By working with the United States, each of these individuals have put their lives and those of their family and friends at risk,” the bishops stated. “As they now leave everything behind to begin new lives here, the many sacrifices they’ve made should not go unacknowledged.”
Earlier in July, President Biden announced a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan that was planned to conclude by August 31. As part of that announcement, Biden said his administration would work to expedite the immigration process for certain Afghani nationals who had helped the United States’ operation in Afghanistan as interpreters and translators.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) stated that it would be involved in helping resettle the nationals.
“The Catholic Church teaches that each person is created in the image and likeness of God and that we must uphold the inherent dignity of every person,” Archbishop Gomez and Bishop Dorsonville stated.
The bishops quoted Pope Francis’ call to welcome migrants and refugees, as “an invitation to overcome our fears so as to encounter the other, to welcome, to know and to acknowledge him or her.”
On Monday, a senior State Department official told reporters that the agency would also be granting “Priority 2” or “P-2” designation to certain Afghan nationals for the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. The designation would be reserved for those who assisted or worked for the U.S. government, U.S. forces, or government programs in Afghanistan, but who were not eligible for a Special Immigrant Visa.
Afghan members of a U.S.-based media or non-governmental organization could also be eligible for a P-2 designation.
Special Immigrant Visas were granted to Iraqi and Afghan nationals, their spouses and children following since the 2006 authorization of a humanitarian program by Congress to help resettle Afghans who had assisted U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. The USCCB says it helped the U.S. government resettle some of the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa holders, of the more than 73,000 who ultimately received the visas.
For Afghans who were in the final stages of the Special Immigrant Visa process, the United States announced on July 14 they would receive an emergency relocation. A bipartisan emergency supplemental appropriations bill passed by Congress on July 29 also authorized an additional 8,000 visas for the Special Immigrant Visa program.
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