Some reading this will already know that we’ve been quietly involved these past months with assisting Afghans trying to flee the country after the bungled U.S. withdrawal that ended August 31, 2021. Since mid-August we have been in daily contact with multiple Afghan families. We have not made this public due to security concerns. The group of Afghans we are helping are primarily relatives of other Afghans already living in Texas that we have in-person connections with.
However, at this later stage in the operation, we want to at least let those who do not know about this effort to please be in continual prayer. There is a LOT that we cannot share. But we can share that it is still very difficult for the Afghans we are helping, still very dangerous, and still a very volatile situation. Our primary hope is in God. Human governments have failed. Every other non-profit group we are in contact with also diligently helping to evacuate Afghans are overwhelmed with the needs. We need God in this. So, primarily, our request to you all is to pray regularly.
What Are We Doing To Help?
The Afghans we are helping all used to work in some way for U.S. military and security forces deployed to Afghanistan. Thus, they have all been qualified for what is known as the SIV program (Special Immigrant Visa) created to help interpreters and contractors come to the USA after faithful service in support of U.S. interests abroad. Thousands of Afghans have already entered America on this program, but tens of thousands remain.
The SIV program has failed them. When the U.S. Embassy fled in August, they left no system in place to continue to process or evacuate these types of Afghans – ones who are at high-risk from the Taliban for having helped the USA – and left them in a legal limbo. They have a right to finish their SIV processing and come to America – they risked their life for it and earned it – but there is no process in place for them to do it in Afghanistan.
Our help to them is two-fold. First, we are helping them with legal support to file for what is called Humanitarian Parole with U.S. immigration. This is program designed to quickly help at-risk individuals legally enter the US. If approved, this gives them legal approval to come to the USA for up to two years in order to finish their SIV processing and – hopefully – receive the Green Card they worked so hard for in support of our military mission in Afghanistan for the past 20 years. We are thankful for generous support of multiple immigration lawyers giving pro-bono time to help these cases.
Our second aim is to help facilitate some kind of border crossing for them to access a U.S. Embassy so that they can finish the Humanitarian Parole process. This is a challenge. Due to the bureaucratic contradictions of our American immigration system, they require someone filling for Humanitarian Parole to finalize it at a U.S. Embassy. Obviously, this makes it impossible for a person living in a country without an embassy – such as all of the Afghan SIVs we are trying to help – to finish that process and make it to America. They need to get over the border to ANY OTHER country with a U.S. Embassy.
However, in a true Catch-22 situation, so far all surrounding countries will not let Afghans transit their borders to access an embassy unless they can first show they have a visa to emigrate to another country like the US. But the US will not give them this visa unless they first transit to a surrounding country to reach their embassy! While it is my opinion that the U.S. government could fix that contradiction very easily with a modernized digital approach to their HP processing that can enable remote assistance to these Afghans, we can’t wait on the speed of government bureaucracy when lives are on the line. We are trying everything we can, in coordination with any other Afghan evac group we can connect with, to help get our Afghans over any border to safety. Pray for this effort as well.
Why Are We Helping Afghans?
This type of work is something new for us at Thirsty Ground. We have not had much involvement in immigration case work or the convoluted logistics of coordinating border crossings from 7,000 miles distant. But we could not ignore the cries of Afghans forgotten and left to die under the new Taliban regime after the last U.S. troops pulled out on August 31st, 2021.
Many of these Afghans have told us they repeatedly reached out to our government and other larger official groups for help, only to receive silence. They have said to me: “Nobody listens, nobody cares. We are alone.”
We have heard them, and we do care. They do not have to be alone in this. Why do we care? There is both a moral and Scriptural imperative to care about these Afghans.
Every one of these Afghan families we are helping are in grave danger because they helped the U.S. government during the 20-year Afghan war. They did so after receiving a straightforward promise – if you help the USA we will in turn help you to immigrate. Based on the hope of this promise they risked all, only to be betrayed and left behind. If you ask ANY veteran of the Afghan war, they would say that these Afghans were an indispensable part of the mission and helped to save COUNTLESS lives of U.S. service members during military operations.
There is a moral obligation for the U.S. government to honor its word to our on-the-ground Afghan allies. What has happened is an immoral betrayal of trust. I am an American, and as part of a government that is supposedly “by the people” I too have a moral obligation in this. We don’t have the luxury to throw up on our hands and say “it’s not my fault but the fault of some D.C. bureaucrats who botched this up.” When my government fails to honor its promises, I am culpable if I sit by and do or say nothing. Every American is stained by this national sin. We need to repent of it. We need to do what we can at every level of our influence to help these Afghans. This is one reason TGI has responded to the requests of these Afghan families to help. We are an American-based NGO and as Americans we can and should do something to help these Afghan SIVs.
There is a Scriptural obligation to help these Afghans as well. This obligation goes beyond that of us Americans. We are also a multi-national team. We have citizens of other countries helping these Afghans who have no moral obligation to do so like us Americans. Why do they do it? Because Jesus said “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Because Proverbs says “Deliver those who are being taken away to death…” (Proverbs 24:11) Because the Apostle John said “..Let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:18).
One could say that Jesus came to this Earth on a rescue mission of His own. Now, He came to rescue those condemned to eternal death for their own sin. The situation is not entirely analogous – these Afghans are condemned to die by the Taliban for no sin of their own – but the principle is analogous. Jesus came because of love. He came to rescue the perishing who could not rescue themselves. As Christians, if we are in a position we can help those in such a situation, love compels that we do.
Can you do more than you are doing right now to help Afghans betrayed by our government and abandoned to die? Only you know the answer to that question. But search your heart. Especially we Americans. When this tragedy passes in a few years, will you be able to look back upon it with a clean conscience and know you did what you could?
What About The Afghans We Cannot Help?
We are a very small non-profit. We have hit our capacity for what we can currently do to help. Just like someone coming up in a row boat to rescue people from a sinking cruise ship, we can’t fit everyone in our little dinghy. But we have fit who we can, and are trying to row to shore now with them. What about those still out there?
If you are reading this and are an Afghan SIV, but you do NOT have papers to travel such as a visa/Green Card, please contact Save our Allies – https://saveourallies.org/ for help. They are a larger group still potentially able to handle new evacuation cases for all categories of Afghans. I cannot promise they will be able to help you in time. Nobody can promise that unfortunately. They have thousands upon thousands of requests pouring in each week. But they are committed to help. We know they are still actively in the fight and effective in their help towards Afghans.
If you are reading this and are an Afghan who actually has a visa in hand, or a Green Card, and just need help getting on a charter flight out of Afghanistan, please contact Project Dynamo – https://www.projectdynamo.org/ for help. They have done a phenomenal job organizing charter flights from the northern provinces for Afghans who already have travel papers. Fill out a group request form on their site and hopefully they can assist you.
If you are an American reading this and don’t know any Afghans, but want to help practically, you can contact your Senator or Congressman and ask them what they are doing to help fix the broken SIV immigration program that has left these Afghan allies stranded. This is ultimately a problem of our own making, and can be fixed the same. Something as simple as a bill in Congress that legalizes a streamlined immigration process specific to the current unique needs of Afghan SIVs could change the whole picture.
We need a bill that, among other things, prioritizes all pending Afghan SIV cases with USCIS to the front of the line, prioritizes Afghan SIV applicants with Humanitarian Parole cases for adjudication immediately, outlines a remote/digital process to enable Afghans to get fully cleared for SIV or HP without needing to physically access a U.S. Embassy before receiving a valid digital visa to travel, and a directive to the U.S State Department to secure diplomatic and publicly stated guarantees from all surrounding countries friendly to the USA that they will automatically clear Afghan SIVs identified in the USCIS system to be able to cross their air or land borders immediately if they can provide digital proof of SIV status.
If we are a government by the people, then we the people should be the ones advocating our congressmen to pass a bill like this. We here at TGI have no political influence or ongoing advocacy efforts, but perhaps someone reading this does or wants to begin on that road. If so, please do something about this if you can.
You can find the Representative for your district here: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative
You can find your Senator’s contact info here: https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm
And of course, please keep praying. We need God’s help in this. Even though the Afghan tragedy is out of the news cycle, the crisis is far from over. The text messages we get daily from Afghans still stranded in Afghanistan remind us of this. We can’t rest until they are rescued. And we won’t stop praying until we see God do that.
Photo Credits – All Photos Are Open Source:
Main Photo – U.S. Marines outside a checkpoint at Hamid Karzai Intl Airport in Kabul on August 21,st 20201. – U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla – https://www.dvidshub.net/image/6798516/evacuation-hamid-karzai-international-airport
Second Photo – Fleeing Afghan civilians aboard a U.S. transport flight on August 19th, 2021 – U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brandon Cribelar – https://www.dvidshub.net/image/6795482/operation-allies-refuge
Third Photo – 82nd Airborne Paratroopers departing Kabul on the final flight out of Afghanistan, August 30, 2021 – Photo by Master Sgt. Alexander Burnett – https://www.defense.gov/observe/photo-gallery/igphoto/2002845366/