September 03, 2021

Seth Moulton fighting for refugee status for Afghan evacuees

Afghan evacuees who narrowly escaped their native country as the Taliban seized control amid withdrawal of U.S. forces are now facing a new crisis on American soil where they are finding they are eligible for government benefits traditionally afforded to refugees.

“Evacuating more than 100,000 of our Afghan allies is an achievement but it’s only the first of many steps we need to take to make good on the promises we made when we told our friends that we’d protect them from the Taliban,” Moulton said. “For Congressman Bacon and me, that work starts today. I want these heroes as a neighbor, and I want to make sure they have the chance to live out the American Dream. This bill will help them take the first steps of their new lives.”

The Massachusetts Democrat teamed up with Nebraska Republican U.S. Rep. Don Bacon to introduce the so-called WELCOMED ACT, which provide Afghan refugees with the same benefits other refugees have traditionally received. U.S. Rep. Jake Auchincloss, another Massachusetts Dem, has also signed on alongside a bipartisan group of 19 lawmakers.

“This legislation is the first step in helping those who have been vetted to start their new lives without worry of being hunted down by the Taliban or ISIS,” Bacon said.Many of the Afghans recently evacuated to the United States came on humanitarian parole or through other expedited processes, which comes with limited, temporary benefits.

The Biden administration maintains the bureaucratic shortcut was necessary to expedite the evacuation of tens of thousands of endangered citizens and allies, but critics said it’s setting the stage for a long-term crisis.

The lack of refugee status means that Afghans are not eligible for basic government programs that would provide them money and resources to resettle.

It’s concern that’s left nonprofits — which typically partner with state and federal governments to assist with refugee transitions — scrambling for resources.

Some groups, including the International Institute of New England and Ascentria Care Alliance, said late last week that hundreds of Afghan evacuees could begin arriving in Massachusetts at soon as this week, and it could take months before they are able to obtain work permits.

So far, Gov. Charlie Baker’s office says it has not received any requests for assistance from the Biden Administration related to Afghan refugees. The Republican governor has signaled his readiness to assist in resettling refugees in Massachusetts.

By:  Erin Tiernan
Source: Boston Herald