Ohio Evangelicals Urge Congress to Grant Permanent Legal Status to Afghans
Columbus — Today, the Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT) sent a letter signed by approximately 50 evangelical pastors, leaders and church members urging Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown 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 1,400 resettled to Ohio. 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 Ohio’s congressional delegation:
Bethany Bell, Outreach Minister, Grace Christian & Missionary Alliance Church, Middleburg Heights, said:
“We believe that God has been calling his people to welcome and provide a safe haven for foreigners since the beginning of time. In our current climate, this aspect of God’s character cannot be ignored or understated. God’s heart is to dignify, welcome and love all people. The Afghan Adjustment Act is a practical, globally-compassionate step towards acknowledging His image in every human.”
Steve Harper, Pastor, Grace Church Christian & Missionary Alliance, Middleburg Heights said:
“Grace Church and Hope in the City in Cleveland are committed to showing the love and hospitality of Christ to Afghan refugees. We pray for a pathway toward citizenship for these dear people.”
Pastor Amy Heckman, Nazarene Compassionate Ministries for Ohio, said:
“After going to great lengths to evacuate thousands of vulnerable Afghan families and individuals, it is beyond imperative that we finish the mission through legislation that establishes the ability for each one to apply for permanent residency status. Extending hospitality and welcoming immigrants is a fundamental part of my own Christian faith and practice. Therefore, I urge congress to send a message to our new neighbors that this welcome is irrevocable. To do any less would leave this rescue mission unfinished.”
Tom Roepke, Lead Pastor at Linden Road Presbyterian Church, Ashland, said:
“As an American it only makes sense to support that those who have been paroled into the United States be afforded a process that gives a sure road to citizenship that is not simply a perpetual ‘temporary’ status. It needs to be clear and a direct path that will give closure and certainty of citizenship in our great land.”
Kevin Vereide, Director, Immigrant and Refugee Elevate Group, Columbus, said:
“Over the last few months, I have had the privilege to walk alongside Afghans who are coming to settle in Columbus, Ohio. Each of these people has a story of fleeing their homeland, leaving family and friends behind. All of these people were allies of the US. Their journey out of Afghanistan was stressful and their adjustment to life in the US is also stressful. They also continue to worry about their families and friends back in Afghanistan. Many of the men had to leave wives and young children. These allies of the US do not need more stress. We need to support a path to permanent status for these families and individuals.”
Eileen Wilson, Director, The Hope Center, Cleveland, said:
“As with many immigration situations through the years, the Afghan situation was not something that they caused, but something that happened to them. How we react regarding the Afghan Adjustment Act will define for the world how the US helps those who have helped us.”