California Evangelicals Urge Congress to Grant Permanent Legal Status to Afghans
Sacramento — Today, the Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT) sent a letter signed by more than 60 California evangelical pastors, leaders and church members urging Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla and the state’s U.S. representatives to provide permanent legal status to Afghans already resettled across the U.S.
Since August, more than 70,000 Afghans who were evacuated out of Kabul have been granted humanitarian parole into the United States. Most of them have now been resettled across local communities, many with the direct support of churches and other community organizations, including approximately 7,000 resettled to California. However, these Afghans do not have a clear process to pursue permanent legal status.
Local evangelical leaders urge Congress to pass legislation that would allow these Afghan parolees “a direct process by which they can apply for permanent legal status,” per the letter. One proposal, the Afghan Adjustment Act, would allow Afghan parolees to be processed similarly to those resettled through the traditional refugee resettlement program, applying for Lawful Permanent Resident status after one year.
The evangelical leaders’ letter, which was affirmed by approximately 900 signatories from across the country, also urges Congress to pass legislation to grant permanent legal status to other categories of immigrants who are currently in the United States only with temporary legal protections, including Dreamers who have benefited from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and long-term beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status.
The following are quotes from several signatories of the letter to California’s congressional delegation:
Alan Cross, Pastor, Petaluma Valley Baptist Church, Petaluma, said:
“I support the Afghan Adjustment Act because I believe that we have an obligation to welcome Afghan refugees in a way that they can have a sense of stability without worrying that they will be deported and have to leave yet again. As a Christian, I believe we are called to provide welcome for those who have had to flee terrible situations to protect their own lives and their families. Continuing to live in what amounts to a temporary situation isn’t good for Afghan refugees or the communities they are residing in.”
Kerry Ham, Executive Director, World Relief Sacramento, said:
“It has been our honor, in partnership with various local churches and other community partners, to welcome hundreds of Afghans to northern California over the past six months. These brave and resilient families and individuals are already investing back into this community – but they need the certainty that they belong here on a permanent basis, without the fear of their legal status lapsing. Congress should pass an Afghan Adjustment Act immediately.”
Christine Nolf, Pastor of Healthy Communities, Redemption Church, Costa Mesa, said:
“We support the Afghan Adjustment Act because we have seen the devastation that long term ‘temporary’ status has on families and our city. We cannot simultaneously ask newly arrived immigrants to assimilate into our communities and withhold the status that would provide for their long term security. Living in flux long term has negative effects on our whole community. As a church that exists for the health and flourishing of our communities, we long to see our immigrant neighbors live with security and the ability to put down deep roots alongside us. Advocating for this change is part of our duty as Christians to welcome the sojourners and love our neighbors as ourselves.”
Rev. Dr. Alexia Salvatierra, Academic Dean, Centro Latino, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, said:
“In Matthew 25:35, Jesus lets us know that when we welcome the stranger, we are welcoming Him and when we fail to welcome the stranger, we are failing to welcome Him. The most basic implication of this scripture is that those of us who love the Lord, need to show that love to the stranger. Love includes empathy, the imagination of the heart. When I imagine all that the Afghan refugees have gone through, I feel the pain of their trauma and I do not want to see them and their children continue to live in terror of deportation into life-threatening danger. I am proud of the commitment that the US has had since 1951 to welcome refugees. I pray that we will live up to it.”