Guest opinion: Afghan Adjustment Act continues commitment to immigrants
I am a proud daughter of Mexican immigrants. One could say my story begins with that of my parents immigrating before I was born. However, it started much earlier than that. My paternal great grandfather worked as a bracero under the Mexican Farm Labor program. He worked for some time before going back to Mexico. Ultimately, his son (my abuelo) would make the trip back to the border to begin a new life with his wife and children in Southern California. My mother made her way through Mexico, then the border and finally found a compassionate family who took her in. My life in Southern California bloomed from hard work, endurance and a strong sense of community. I now live in the state of Utah and being here has given me the opportunity to appreciate the importance of having community.
Even though my family and I have not had the same experiences as Afghan refugees, we know the importance of having guidance and safety when coming to a new country. That is why it’s been important for me to support the Afghan Adjustment Act (S. 4787). The AAA will help Afghans with humanitarian parole to apply for permanent legal status. Not only would the AAA expand for those with Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs), it will also help Afghan allies and relatives of armed forces. Without this bill, many Afghans will lack safety in their home country or be lost in resettlement processes.
We need Sen. Romney and Sen. Lee to ensure the Afghan Adjustment Act passes in this legislative session, or thousands of Afghan evacuees will face dire circumstances. Out of the many who have already been living in the U.S., these families and individuals would be under legal uncertainty. This means that most would face evacuations. Those who have already started to build lives and send their children to school would face the trauma of once again having to find a place to call home. According to NPR, there are still thousands of Afghans who are waiting on their SIV applications. Unfortunately, there is a backlog of these applications. If the AAA does not pass, those waiting with applications will not have the opportunity to make their cases known. It would be cruel for current Afghans already living in the states and those awaiting their visas to see this act not pass right away.
The IRC (International Rescue Committee) in Salt Lake City is providing Afghan evacuees trauma-informed counseling, family reunification via immigration pathways and permanent housing. I encourage members of my community to support local programs such as the IRC in aiding our Afghan friends. Work like this is needed but there has been criticism that refugees/immigrants are more expensive for the economy.
In 2019, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) published an analysis on how immigrants contribute to the U.S. economy. Within the analysis, it was stated that immigrants boosted local economies when faced with worker shortages and supported the aging, native-born workforce. According to a recent report, done by the IRC, in their first year of work Afghans have contributed to an estimate of $189 million in potential taxes paid. This is from a group of 41,040 working-age Afghans. There’s concern that immigrants who use state assistance could be doing so for years on end or become too dependent; however, the CBPP also analyzed this scenario. Immigrants who do end up using state assistance have higher rates of employment and many begin to have children, which later on builds a younger workforce for local communities. This is a great advantage of having immigrants in our country.
By passing the Afghan Adjustment Act, we create safety for Afghans and a future for America. As a daughter of immigrants and a proud American, our stories couldn’t be enough without community.
Jasmin Cruz is a resident of Orem and a member of Mormon Women for Ethical Government.