The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is hitting home in New York, where immigrants and their advocates are demanding that the Biden administration do everything it can to help everyone it can.
“We are calling on our leaders to act courageously,” said Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “We have a profound moral obligation to assist with the resettlement of Afghan refugees. Humanity must come before bureaucracy.”
The desperation grows as Tuesday’s U.S. troop withdrawal deadline approaches.
At the community level, Afghan New Yorkers and their neighbors are pitching in by hosting fundraising and supply drives.
“As long as this crisis continues, I’ll continue to accept donations,” said Linda Wolff, owner of CPW Boutique on the Upper West Side.
At the federal level, Congress members are fielding panicked pleas from constituents to secure passage for loved ones in Afghanistan.
Rep. Grace Meng of Queens told NY1 her office has received more than 1,200 requests for help.
On the day of the deadly terror attack at the Kabul airport, Meng tweeted that she was heartbroken to say her staff was asked to stop advising people to go to the airport.
She added in a statement Friday that she believes "we must complete the evacuation regardless of the timeline."
Rep. Ritchie Torres of the Bronx signed a letter urging that the refugee designation status be expanded to include one group in mortal danger.
“With the Taliban’s takeover of the country, LGBTQ+ Afghans face the prospect of violent death,” the lawmakers wrote.
Torres noted to NY1 that many LGBTQ+ Afghans are allies of the United States and this designation would grant them a legal path to leave Afghanistan.
And in a town hall event Friday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of the Bronx and Queens said: “A lot of times when you are running and fleeing — or have family members fleeing — you have little more than the clothes on your back and so what we are trying to do is assist in creating documentation. We are offering letters of support.”
Afghan refugees have begun arriving in the United States, most receiving a humanitarian parolee designation with no access to benefits or path to permanent residency and citizenship.
Advocates say there must be longer-term help.
“What is we are asking for is for our federal government, for anyone that is in a position of power and authority that can use their voice, to say: We cannot, we cannot leave these people behind," said Karen Andolina Scott, executive director of Journey’s End Refugee Services. "Bringing them in here is not enough.”