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Bishops Hail Efforts to Give Refuge to U.S.-Friendly Afghans

The Tablet Staff

Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, pledged to help Afghan refugees. (CNS photo/courtesy Archdiocese of Los Angeles)

‘Sacrifices They’ve Made Should Not Go Unacknowledged’

WINDSOR TERRACE — As the 20-year-long war in Afghanistan winds down, American bishops are hailing government efforts to provide refuge for Afghans who assisted U.S. forces during the lengthy conflict. 

In a statement, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) pledged to assist Afghan refugees brought here under the Biden administration’s “Operation Allies Refuge,” initiative — the government’s program to relocate Afghans who worked as interpreters and translators.

“We are proud to have the opportunity to welcome and assist those who have kept Americans safe in Afghanistan,” read the statement signed by USCCB President Archbishop José Gomez and Chairman of the Committee on Migration, Bishop Mario Dorsonville.

“By working with the United States each of these individuals has put their lives and those of their family and friends at risk. As they now leave everything behind to begin new lives here, the many sacrifices they’ve made should not go unacknowledged,” the statement reads.

During the 20-year war, thousands of Afghans have helped U.S. troops by serving as interpreters and providing transportation and security services.

Last month, President Biden announced plans to end the military mission in Afghanistan by Sept. 11. The U.S. has already pulled most of the U.S. troops out of Bagram Air Base, its main base. 

In 2006, Congress authorized a program to provide Special Immigration Visas (SIV) for the helpful Afghans. In July, Congress passed an emergency supplemental appropriations bill of $1 billion to provide humanitarian support for the refugees. Congress also authorized an additional 8,000 visas for the SIV program.

The White House recently announced the emergency relocation to the U.S. of Afghan SIV applicants. The first group of Afghan refugees arrived in the U.S. on July 30. 

In their statement, the USCCB offered to work with the government – through Migration and Refugee Services and other Catholic charities — to “ensure the warm welcome, safe relocation, and resettlement of those who have already contributed greatly” to the U.S.