San Diegans push for passage of the Afghan Adjustment Act
After 20 years, the Biden Administration had decided it was time to leave Afghanistan and though about 120,000 people were able to get out, many more were left behind.
A lot of them were people who helped the United States in one way or another during the war. Now, a local nonprofit is working to help bring
those left behind to the U.S.
“We have a shared commitment to helping Afghan allies who’ve stood with Americans for 20 years, through our longest war,” said Navy veteran Shawn VanDiver at a Friday news conference at San Diego City Hall.
The commitment he referenced has been at the center of his life for the past year. As Afghanistan was falling, he founded the nonprofit Afghan Evac in San Diego.
VanDiver shared his personal story of what motivated him to make this his work.
“My buddy Lucky texted me and said, 'Brother, I’m stuck on this mountain in Ergun. I think I’m gonna die. We’re running out of ammunition. Will you please grant my last wish and help my family get back to San Diego?'” he said.
VanDiver was joined by local leaders and members of the Afghan community, including Aleena Jun Nawabi, leader of the Azizi Foundation.
“When we found out that my father was stranded, we immediately contacted our friend Shawn and other volunteers to help out," Nawabi said. She is from Afghanistan but is now an American citizen.
Afghan Evac got her father out of Afghanistan. She, VanDiver and other community leaders are now behind an effort to get Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act. It’s similar to legislation passed following past conflicts.
"We did it with the Cuban Act, with the Iraqi Act, as well as the Vietnam Act and we’re hoping to do the same thing for the Afghans," Nawabi said.
The Biden Administration received bruising criticism for how it handled the pullout from Afghanistan. But VanDiver said the administration’s new plan — Operation Enduring Welcome — makes some welcome changes.
“No longer will Afghans arrive here in a temporary status. They’ll arrive in a durable, long-term status and a pathway to becoming full American citizens," he said.
The Afghan Adjustment Act now sits in Congress, awaiting passage in the House and Senate. It includes a provision that could be considered preventative; it establishes a task force that, among other things, will work to ensure that what happened with the refugees this time never happen again.
A group of farmworkers held a vigil at the state capitol, hoping to convince Governor Gavin Newsom to say yes to a bill that would allow farmworkers to vote on unionizing by mail or by card check. In other news, Congress is considering legislation to streamline the immigration process for Afghan refugees.