US Senate passes $1.7t spending bill without Afghan refugee law

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The United States Senate has passed a $1.7 trillion spending bill that includes hundreds of billions of dollars for military spending but fails to include a bill seen as crucial for Afghan refugees stuck in legal limbo.

The Senate passed the enormous 4,155-page bill with bipartisan support on Thursday, with a vote of 68 to 29. The bill, which provides funding to the US government through September 30, 2023, must now pass the House of Representatives on Friday to avoid a partial government shutdown.

The bill budgets about $858bn for military spending, $772.5bn for various domestic programmes and $45bn for another round of military and economic aid for Ukraine.

Immigrant rights and Afghan-US advocacy groups, however, have pointed out the bill fails to include a provision that would have offered a legal pathway for tens of thousands of Afghan refugees who arrived in the US following the collapse of the US-backed government in Afghanistan in August 2021.

Many were brought to the US through a programme known as “humanitarian parole”, which enabled them to quickly enter the country and shielded them from deportation for a two-year period. But that two-year window is set to expire next summer.

A solution was proposed through the bipartisan Afghan Adjustment Act (AAA), which would have offered Afghan refugees a pathway to a more permanent status if they went through additional vetting and met certain requirements.

But while the bill received support across the political spectrum, a number of Republican politicians attacked it on national security grounds, expressing concerns about the thoroughness of the vetting process.

The Afghan Adjustment Act was ultimately dropped from the Senate’s spending bill.

Yet, immigrant rights advocates say the Biden administration has overwhelmingly rejected Afghans who have applied for humanitarian parole since the fall of the US-backed Afghan government. They accuse the US of employing a racist double standard as it largely approves similar petitions from Ukrainians displaced by the Russian invasion.

Afghan refugees have told Al Jazeera that the uncertainty around their immigration status has become a source of concern as they try to adjust to life in the US. Many have family members back in Afghanistan they hope to bring to the US.—Afghanistan times