Today we biked in Queens, across the East River from our Manhattan home.
We had a nice chat with Matt.
Matt admired our bike and reminisced about driving in Utah (to which we hope to bike in the coming months). Jeffrey gave Matt one of our calling cards.
Matt said we need human rights ambassadors. He is disgusted by the hate speech we hear in our “nation of immigrants”.
Why should Matt worry? Hate speech is just words. “Sticks and stone can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Right?
Words create, and can destroy, every kind of human relationship.
Yesterday, on Memorial Day, America rang with praise for the military dead, who cannot hear it and do not care.
At the same time, anti-immigrant talk promises to kill more members of our military.
Iraqis and Afghanis put on American uniforms, risked their lives to help and protect our troops. They were interpreters, cultural ambassadors, eyes and ears for Americans in a bewildering society. They became members of our military in all but paperwork.
Now they are being abandoned as our military leaves those countries.
Past Congresses and former Presidents provided a complex, narrow, grudging, Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program to bring to America a limited number of our Iraqi and Afghani friends. Thousands have been left behind because (for example) they can’t find certain paperwork, or the quota is full, or they protected American soldiers and marines for less than one full year—reasons irrelevant to the Taliban and ISIS.
The situation for our Afghani friends is particularly dire. In a few weeks, the last American forces will be out of Afghanistan. Every Afghani left behind who helped our people will be hunted down and murdered.
In the 1980s, Jeffrey won asylum for Afghanis who fought against the Soviets. To apply for asylum, they had to reach the U.S. border. That’s impossible for Afghanis today. They must be rescued where they are.
In 2013, This American Life produced a podcast on “Omar,” an Iraqi who wore an American uniform and protected our troops. While U.S. dithering delayed Omar’s SIV application, Omar was murdered by America’s enemies. You can see some of the story at Emails from a Dead Man, and hear the whole sad tale at Taking Names. (Epilogue: the U.S. eventually gave refuge to Omar’s widow and orphan.)
We don’t blame American troops for Omar’s suffering and death. Our people on the ground love and respect the locals who helped them. They know the risks our friends took. They do not want to leave comrades behind.
We blame the U.S. government for inaction.
U.S. immigration policy is distorted by a minority. The anti-immigrant attitude of a supposedly pro-military minority has disproportionate power due to the structure of the U.S. Senate and the gerrymandering of House districts.
Our government is letting our friends die, for being our friends.
Individual voices, speaking up for our friends, are not being heard.
Here is a 90-second video from Veterans for American Ideals, a project of Human Rights First. VFAI is pressing the Biden administration to bring 17,000 of our Afghani friends to safety now. An excerpt from VFAI’s letter to the President:
… In Afghanistan, and other places around the globe, our efforts have only been possible because local allies helped us do that job. They patrolled with us on missions, worked beside us on bases, and saved our lives in firefights.
… [O]ur departure from Afghanistan will put our allies there at grave risk. … We owe these Afghans a debt of honor; as our armed forces withdraw from Afghanistan, we must honor that debt.
Afghans who risked their lives to serve with American armed forces and have applied for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) must be evacuated to American territory, where their visas can be safely vetted and processed. …
The U.S. has successfully undertaken such efforts before. In 1975, the Ford administration evacuated 130,000 Vietnamese to Guam … [i]n 1996, the Clinton administration airlifted thousands of Iraqis who had assisted American efforts in Northern Iraq to Guam … [and i]n 1999 … the Clinton administration airlifted 20,000 Kosovar Albanians to Fort Dix, NJ … where [in those respective locales they] were processed and received refugee status. Honoring our commitments in Afghanistan will rightly be seen as part of a history of American actions to protect allies under threat. …
Donate through the Ride. HRF and VFAI will amplify your voice and ours. Together, we have a chance to be heard.
Let’s leave no one behind.
We need to save those who help our military!