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Washington Budget Crisis Could Affect Afghan Evacuees Resettling In Akron

Afghan immigrants walk through a refugee camp at Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst, N.J., Monday, Sept. 27, 2021. [Andrew Harnik / AP]
Afghan immigrants walk through a refugee camp at Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst, N.J.

Some 150 Afghan evacuees are expected to arrive in Akron in the coming months. But resettlement advocates worry they may not have access to the same benefits as other refugees.

The State Department has designated the evacuees as humanitarian parolees, said Madhu Sharma, executive director of the International Institute of Akron, which at this point means they do not have a clear path to citizenship.

“So our goal really is to ensure that the budget includes the funding that will be needed to process all those individuals that are resettled to a status that at least puts them in the pathway to U.S. citizenship. That will be necessary or our work becomes even more uncertain,” Sharma said.

She said the looming budget showdown in Washington could complicate things even further.

“We’re pushing, really, for an Afghan adjustment act. So that once people arrive there will be quick and immediate pathway towards citizenship residency in the United States very similar to refugees. Refugees can apply for permanent residence one year after they arrive in the United States,” she said.

But a government shutdown in Washington could slow that process and even halt resettlement for refugees outside the Afghan evacuee program, Sharma said.

While the Biden administration has said it will substantially increase the number of refugees allowed in the country, the president has yet to act.

Sharma said her organization has  yet to resettle any of the 150 Afghan evacuees, but they have welcomed more than a dozen Special Immigrant Visa holders, or SIVs, who helped U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Unlike humanitarian parolees, Sharma said, SIVs do have a path to citizenship.

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