Afghans in US Face Difficulties

    07 September 2023

    The U.S. Department of State says that nearly 90,000 Afghans have come to the United States through a special federal program since 2021. The program is called Operation Allies Welcome.

    The U.S. government created Operation Allies Welcome to help resettle Afghans who had worked with the U.S. in Afghanistan until it withdrew.

    Farzana Jamalzada fled Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the country in August 2021. Jamalzada feared that her work with the U.S. government put her in danger.

    FILE - Afghan refugees dress in traditional clothes while celebrating the Muslim festival in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S., May 2, 2022. (REUTERS/Amira Karaoud/File Photo)
    FILE - Afghan refugees dress in traditional clothes while celebrating the Muslim festival in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S., May 2, 2022. (REUTERS/Amira Karaoud/File Photo)

    Jamalzada settled in New York City. The government program gave her permission to live and work in the U.S. for two years. She got a job with an organization that helps people in need, a charity. The job provided her with money to pay for a place to live and other necessities. But the two years ended at the end of August.

    She and her family are waiting for an immigration interview for their application to live and work in the U.S. permanently. The document that permits this is known as a green card.

    Reuters news agency reported that President Joe Biden's administration extended the permission for two more years in June. But the permission to stay in the country is still temporary.

    Difficulty with immigration documents is common for many Afghans who were resettled through Operation Allies Welcome. Their path to legally living in the U.S. permanently is not simple.

    A group of U.S. lawmakers from both political parties, men and women who served in the U.S. military and others are working to support a new law to help Afghan immigrants.

    The Afghan Adjustment Act aims to create a direct path for Afghans to live and work in the U.S. permanently. The goal would be for many Afghans to become citizens in the future.

    But the legislation has not made progress in the House of Representatives or in the Senate.

    Danilo Zak is with Church World Service, a group that assists refugees. Zak said there are many Afghans who simply do not have money for, or cannot find, immigration assistance.

    Unlike some others, Jamalzada and her husband do have a path to a green card. They can request a Special Immigrant Visa. The Special Immigrant Visa is for translators, interpreters and others who assisted the U.S. government in the war in Afghanistan.

    But Jamalzada had to flee Afghanistan so suddenly that her visa was not fully processed. To get a green card, Jamalzada and her husband must attend a government interview on September 12. Until that time, she and her husband may not legally work.

    Jamalzada said she hopes the U.S. Congress passes the Afghan Adjustment Act. She said she wants her friends and family already in the U.S. to not have to worry about their ability to live and work in the country.

    "You never know what's gonna happen to you," she said.

    I'm Gena Bennett.

    Josephine Walker reported this story for Reuters. Gena Bennett adapted it for VOA Learning English.


    Words in This Story

    interview –n. a meeting to gain information from a person about themselves or others

    application –n. a written request for a job, admission to a school or an official status

    translator–n. a person who changes written materials from one language into another

    interpreter–n. a person who changes information from one spoken language to another

    green card–n.(informal) a document that permits a foreign national to live and work permanently in the U.S.