EDITORIAL: More must be done to help resettlement

·2 min read

Jul. 22—The tragic death of Rezwan Kohistani raises many questions for family and friends. They want to know what contributed to and surrounded the death of the 14-year-old Afghan who recently resettled in the United States.

His death was ruled a suicide by local officials; still, the family wants to learn more.

For us, the young man's death raises other questions:

Are we doing enough as a community, state and country to support the refugees? There are nearly 80,000 who have resettled in the United States following the decision to pull out of that country nearly a year ago.

They left behind jobs, homes and sometimes families caught in the grip of the Taliban. Many of those who fled had helped U.S. forces in our longest war and faced death if they remained.

The transition from Afghan refugee to U.S. resident has not been easy. A recent PBS NewsHour summed it up this way: "The journey for many of the Afghans who came to the United States in the historic evacuation remains very much a work in progress, filled with uncertainty and anxiety about the future."

Finding a job, a home, learning the language, passing driving tests ... and the unimaginable more.

While some are succeeding in resettlement, others are struggling. "There are many more who are not doing fine than are doing well," Megan Flores, executive director of the Immigrant & Refugee Outreach Center in McLean, Virginia, told PBS.

Beyond that, however, is the uncertainty over their long-term status.

Maia Dillane, director of research and evaluation for the Arab-American Family Support Center in New York, said many of the refugees came under short-term immigration rules, and that many may soon face decisions about what to do next.

"They are looking at a very precarious legal future," she said.

Many who have resettled here could be eligible for a special immigrant visa, or SIV, which grants permanent residency to refugees who worked for the U.S. government, as well as their families. Others came here under humanitarian parole, which has a two-year window.

Passage of the Afghan Adjustment Act could help, especially for those who risk deportation, and is an important place to start, she told us, allowing them to stay in the United States as lawful permanent residents.

The other option is to be forced to go through an "extremely complex" and understaffed asylum application process that may take too long.

"This is a really critical first step to assuring that most dire stressor on these newly arrived families is addressed," she told us.

We urge our lawmakers to take a serious look at the Afghan Adjustment Act, and see if it is a solution for those who have resettled here.