Bishop Mark Seitz, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Migration Committee, urged Congress in a letter issued Tuesday to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act granting permanent asylum to individuals and families who helped U.S. service members during the war and are now under threat after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021.

The act was introduced in both the Senate and House on July 13 and would “provide support for nationals of Afghanistan who supported the United States’ mission in Afghanistan” and grant an “adjustment of [immigration] status for eligible individuals to support at-risk Afghan allies and relatives of certain members of the armed forces.”

Speaking for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Seitz, who is the bishop of El Paso, Texas, said the act’s “passage is a moral imperative for a country such as ours that embraces both freedom and the rule of law.”

“Many of those who would benefit from the Afghan Adjustment Act served alongside U.S. service members in Afghanistan or are the family members of those individuals,” Seitz explained. “Return to Afghanistan is not a realistic option for them, but their ability to remain in the United States permanently and participate fully in our society is severely limited under current law.”

According to Seitz, over 85% of the Afghani refugees who were successfully evacuated face tenuous legal situations and are unlikely to attain asylum under current law. Seitz said that this has led to an untenable situation for tens of thousands of Afghans who helped U.S. soldiers and interests during the war.

Seitz said the bill would provide “long overdue certainty to tens of thousands of Afghans who were relocated to the United States during our country’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, while also demonstrating our solidarity with those whose lives continue to hang in the balance.”

“Catholic social teaching upholds the importance of full participation by all who inhabit a society, considering it both a right and a duty,” Seitz said, adding that “to arbitrarily deny that participation is an injustice.”

In August 2021, U.S. forces under the Biden administration withdrew from Afghanistan, after which the Taliban took charge of the country, creating a dangerous environment for anyone who helped American interests in the past.

Additionally, since the Taliban takeover, religious freedom has steadily and dramatically declined in Afghanistan, according to testimony by religious freedom advocates at a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations hearing on Tuesday.

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The Afghan Adjustment Act was first introduced last year but died in committee, failing to make it to the floor for a vote.

In addition to the USCCB, several veterans’ organizations, including The American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, also support the bill’s passage.

“America’s veterans served with Afghans for two decades in Afghanistan. We fought side by side with them, and we saw firsthand their courage and dedication,” The American Legion said in a July 19 statement. “When the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in 2021, many of our Afghan allies were left behind. Since then, veterans have been carrying the burden while Congress has delayed providing meaningful relief to this ongoing crisis. The Afghan Adjustment Act would provide our Afghan allies with a safe haven in the United States, where they can rebuild their lives and continue to contribute to our country.”

The bishops have posted a petition on their website for Americans to urge their senators and representatives to pass the act.

On their website, the bishops point out that though it has been “nearly two years since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the harrowing scenes that captivated the world as aircraft rushed to depart its capital city of Kabul,” and there are still tens of thousands of Afghani U.S. allies “who are in need of a legal pathway to real and lasting safety” for themselves and their families.