Advance Notice: Briefs

Tlaib, Geiss call on feds to support Afghan and Haitian refugees 

By: - October 23, 2021 9:54 am

Refugees walk through the departure terminal to a bus at Dulles International Airport after being evacuated from Kabul following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan on August 31, 2021 in Dulles, Virginia. The Department of Defense announced yesterday that the U.S. military had completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, ending 20 years of war. | Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) and state Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) this week both expressed their desire for the federal government to give more support for Afghans and Haitians currently residing in the United States.

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib attends President Joe Biden’s remarks on his American Jobs Plan and the Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck at the Ford Motor Co. Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, where the truck will be produced, on Tuesday, May 18. (Andrew Roth | Michigan Advance)

In a letter led by Tlaib on Wednesday, she and 24 other members of Congress urged President Joe Biden to take concrete steps toward helping thousands of Afghan evacuees transition into life in the United States.

Since the U.S. embassy in Kabul closed, about 53,000 Afghans at U.S. military bases across the country and thousands more at American bases abroad have been waiting for months to establish homes elsewhere in the country.

To help them, Tlaib and her co-signers call on Biden to take actions like waiving fees for humanitarian parole applications, providing legal assistance funds for evacuees, implementing a Temporary Protected Status for the Afghans to protect them from deportation and creating an alternative way for vulnerable Afghans to apply for humanitarian parole without visiting a U.S. embassy.

“Given that the U.S. embassy in Kabul is closed, Afghan parolees will be forced to take dangerous routes to third countries to reach a U.S. embassy to process their parole applications,” Tlaib said. “This creates additional obstacles and bureaucratic barriers to the humanitarian parole process, and unnecessarily exposes vulnerable Afghans to additional risk.

“… The United States has long offered shelter to those seeking refuge from catastrophe. Now is the time to continue this tradition and stand beside the Afghan people in their time of need,” she added.

Tlaib’s call to action has received support from the Afghan-American Community Organization.

In the state Legislature, Geiss offered a resolution Wednesday similarly calling on the federal government to support asylum seekers from Haiti who now face danger as they are forced to be sent back to their country.

Senate Resolution 87, which has been referred to the Senate Government Operations Committee, asks that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to review and rescind its March 2020 order that suspended people coming from countries where a quarantinable, communicable disease existed.

The CDC had issued the order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Geiss says it has also endangered Haitian asylum seekers who wish to escape the turmoil in their home country.

“The humanitarian crisis in Haiti has been, and remains, a grave concern due to compounded tragedies of violence, political upheaval, and natural disasters,” Geiss said in a press release. “If we are to advance as a nation, we must continue to sharpen and refine our policies, especially when it comes to people yearning for a better life for themselves and their families.

“In this time of great upheaval, we must reassert ourselves as a global power rooted in kindness, humanitarianism, and justice.”

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).