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Maine military veterans press Congress to let newly arrived Afghan allies stay in U.S.

HIRSCHKORN REPORTS -- MAINE VETERANS ARE JOINING THE FIGHT. (VO 1: INTERVIEW WIDESHOT) FOR THESE THREE MILITARY VETERANS, RESETTLING AFGHANS WHO HELPED THE U-S WAR EFFORT IS PERSONAL. (SOT JOHN FRIBERG, U.S. ARMY VETERAN, 2:25) "WE CALLED THEM OUR PARTNERS. THERE'S A SAYING 'SHONA BA SHONA,' WHICH IS 'SHOULDER TO SHOULDER." (VO 2: JOHN WAR PIX) ARMY SPECIAL FORCES VET JOHN FRIBERG FOUGHT "SHOULDER TO SHOULDER" WITH AFGHANS DURING TWO DEPLOYMENTS. HIS 'TRANSLATOR NOW A TALIBAN TARGET. (SOT JOHN FRIBERG, U.S. ARMY VETERAN, 4:20) "ANYBODY WHO WORKED FOR U.S. SPECIAL OPERATION FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN, THEY'RE PRETTY MUCH ON WHAT WE CALL A HUNT LIST." (SOT JEN FULLMER, U.S. AIR FORCE VETERAN, 24:45) "THEY DIDN'T WANT TO LEAVE AFGHANISTAN. THAT WAS THEIR HOME." (VO 3: JEN WAR PIX) RETIRED AIR FORCE COLONEL JEN FULLMER FLEW 80 COMBAT MISSIONS OVER AFGHANISTAN. SHE AND HER FELLOW VETS NOW ESPECIALLY CONCERNED ABOUT THE 80- THOUSAND AFGHANS EVACUATED BY THE U-S TO THE U-S AFTER THE TALIBAN TAKEOVER LAST YEAR. MOST ARRIVED UNDER HUMANITARIAN PAROLE WITH AUTHORIZATION TO STAY FOR TWO YEARS. (SOT JEN FULLMER, U.S. AIR FORCE VETERAN, 22:50) "NOW THEY'RE IN OUR COMMUNITIES, AND THEY ARE IN A COMPLETE LIMBO STATUS. THEY DON'T HAVE A CLEAR PATH TO PERMANENT LEGAL RESIDENCY, THEY DON'T KNOW IF THEY ARE GOING TO BE DEPORTED. THEY HAVE NO PEACE OF MIND." (VO 4: CUTAWAYS) THE VETS ARE PUSHING FOR CONGRESS TO PASS THE AFGHAN ADJUSTMENT ACT, WHICH WOULD OFFER A PATH TO APPLY, WITH VETTING, FOR A GREEN CARD OR SPECIAL IMMIGRANT VISA....AND STREAMLINE THE YEARS-LONG PROCESS. (SOT JEN FULLMER, U.S. AIR FORCE VETERAN, 23:45) "IT WILL ALLOW THEM TO GET ON WITH THEIR LIVES. IT WILL ALLOW THEM TO NOT HAVE ADDITIONAL TRAUMA PILED ON TOP OF THEM AFTER LOSING EVERYTHING THAT THEY HAD." (SOT JOHN DELUTIO, U.S. NAVY VETERAN, 9:25) "I BELIEVE OUR NATIONAL SECURITY IS AT STAKE HERE." (VO 5: DELUTIO WAR PIX) RETIRED NAVY PILOT BRIAN DELUTIO FLEW 40 COMBAT MISSIONS IN AFGHANISTAN. HE NOW VOLUNTEERS TO HELP ELIGIBLE AFGHANS NAVIGATE THE VISA APPLICATION PROCESS. (SOT

Maine military veterans press Congress to let newly arrived Afghan allies stay in U.S.

Afghan Adjustment Act would open path to legal permanent residency

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WMTW

Updated: 5:03 AM EDT Sep 23, 2022

For a trio of Maine military veterans who I met in an Oxford, Maine, farmhouse on Thursday, resettling Afghans who helped the American war effort is personal, and the clock is ticking.U.S. Army Special Forces Veteran John Friberg said, "We called them our partners. There's a saying 'shona ba shona,' which is 'shoulder to shoulder.’"Friberg, who served 40 years in the army and later as a NATO troop instructor, fought shoulder to shoulder with Afghans during two deployments, and his former translator is now a Taliban target.Friberg said, “Anybody who worked for U.S. special operation forces in Afghanistan, they're pretty much on what we call a hunt list. So, most of those people are on the run, house to house, changing their residence from week to week, day to day.”Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Jen Fullmer flew 80 combat missions over Afghanistan, and during her 24-year career, she served as second in command of the largest air wing, based in Qatar, supporting operations in Afghanistan.Fullmer and her fellow veterans are now especially concerned about the 82,000 Afghans evacuated by the U.S. to the U.S. after the Taliban takeover last year, 70,000 of whom arrived under humanitarian parole with authorization to stay for two years."They didn't want to leave Afghanistan. That was their home," Fullmer said. "Now, they're in our communities, and they are in a complete limbo status. They don't have a clear path to permanent legal residency, they don't know if they are going to be deported. They have no peace of mind."The veterans are pushing for Congress to pass the bipartisan Afghan Adjustment Act, which would offer a path to apply, with vetting, for a permanent residency (green card) or the Special Immigrant Visa available for those who assisted troops, while also streamlining the years-long process.Fullmer said, "It will allow them to get on with their lives. It will allow them to not have additional trauma piled on top of them after losing everything that they had."About 37,000 of the Afghan evacuees were SIV appplicants, and about 3,300 were SIV holders, according to a December 2021 report the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.Only 3,500 evacuees were U.S. lawful permanent residents.The SIV program, established in 2009, has helped more than 18,000 Afghans and their families settle in the U.S., but the process is a cumbersome 14-steps, and as of last month, there were 90,000 applicants in the pipeline, with the majority still in Afghanistan, according to a report released Thursday by New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen.Friberg said, “It’s very slow, very bureaucratic, lots of paperwork."Retired U.S. Navy pilot Brian deLutio, stationed on the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, flew 40 combat missions in Afghanistan, and after 20 years in the navy, he now volunteers to help eligible Afghans navigate the SIV process.DeLutio said, "Some of the things they have to do are to find their U.S. supervisor they may have worked with 10, 15 years ago to get a letter of recommendation as part of this application process. That’s a tough thing to do."He is currently assisting an Afghan ally in hiding with his wife and six children.DeLutio said, “I’m his lifeline right now between what he’s dealing with and the prospect of some future safety."These veterans see helping Afghan allies stay as a moral obligation."I believe our national security is at stake here,” deLutio said. “We as a country are going to be judged by future generations, but we're also going to be judged by future partners. We are going to have an awfully hard time attracting these partners if we treat our allies from this war the way we are right now.” The Afghan Adjustment Act would make former Afghan military members paid by their government eligible for an SIV, not only Afghans who were hired by the U.S. military.Fullmer is currently helping one such Afghan officer and his family of 11 settle in Maine.“They are here already, we’ve already processed them,” Fullmer said. “We’ve already given them Social Security cards and work authorization so they can start to work.”Both Maine members of the U.S. House, Democrats Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden, are co-sponsors of the Afghan Adjustment Act. Independent Senator Angus King has agreed to be a co-sponsor. Republican Senator Susan Collins is reviewing the legislation.Fullmer said of the new arrivals, “They want what we want. They want what you want. They want their children to be successful, they want their children to be free, they want them to be educated, and they want them to have a good life, and they want to contribute to the society.”

OXFORD, Maine —

For a trio of Maine military veterans who I met in an Oxford, Maine, farmhouse on Thursday, resettling Afghans who helped the American war effort is personal, and the clock is ticking.

U.S. Army Special Forces Veteran John Friberg said, "We called them our partners. There's a saying 'shona ba shona,' which is 'shoulder to shoulder.’"

Friberg, who served 40 years in the army and later as a NATO troop instructor, fought shoulder to shoulder with Afghans during two deployments, and his former translator is now a Taliban target.

Friberg said, “Anybody who worked for U.S. special operation forces in Afghanistan, they're pretty much on what we call a hunt list. So, most of those people are on the run, house to house, changing their residence from week to week, day to day.”

Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Jen Fullmer flew 80 combat missions over Afghanistan, and during her 24-year career, she served as second in command of the largest air wing, based in Qatar, supporting operations in Afghanistan.

Fullmer and her fellow veterans are now especially concerned about the 82,000 Afghans evacuated by the U.S. to the U.S. after the Taliban takeover last year, 70,000 of whom arrived under humanitarian parole with authorization to stay for two years.

"They didn't want to leave Afghanistan. That was their home," Fullmer said. "Now, they're in our communities, and they are in a complete limbo status. They don't have a clear path to permanent legal residency, they don't know if they are going to be deported. They have no peace of mind."

The veterans are pushing for Congress to pass the bipartisan Afghan Adjustment Act, which would offer a path to apply, with vetting, for a permanent residency (green card) or the Special Immigrant Visa available for those who assisted troops, while also streamlining the years-long process.

Fullmer said, "It will allow them to get on with their lives. It will allow them to not have additional trauma piled on top of them after losing everything that they had."

About 37,000 of the Afghan evacuees were SIV appplicants, and about 3,300 were SIV holders, according to a December 2021 report the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Only 3,500 evacuees were U.S. lawful permanent residents.

The SIV program, established in 2009, has helped more than 18,000 Afghans and their families settle in the U.S., but the process is a cumbersome 14-steps, and as of last month, there were 90,000 applicants in the pipeline, with the majority still in Afghanistan, according to a report released Thursday by New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen.

Friberg said, “It’s very slow, very bureaucratic, lots of paperwork."

Retired U.S. Navy pilot Brian deLutio, stationed on the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, flew 40 combat missions in Afghanistan, and after 20 years in the navy, he now volunteers to help eligible Afghans navigate the SIV process.

DeLutio said, "Some of the things they have to do are to find their U.S. supervisor they may have worked with 10, 15 years ago to get a letter of recommendation as part of this application process. That’s a tough thing to do."

He is currently assisting an Afghan ally in hiding with his wife and six children.

DeLutio said, “I’m his lifeline right now between what he’s dealing with and the prospect of some future safety."

These veterans see helping Afghan allies stay as a moral obligation.

"I believe our national security is at stake here,” deLutio said. “We as a country are going to be judged by future generations, but we're also going to be judged by future partners. We are going to have an awfully hard time attracting these partners if we treat our allies from this war the way we are right now.”

The Afghan Adjustment Act would make former Afghan military members paid by their government eligible for an SIV, not only Afghans who were hired by the U.S. military.

Fullmer is currently helping one such Afghan officer and his family of 11 settle in Maine.

“They are here already, we’ve already processed them,” Fullmer said. “We’ve already given them Social Security cards and work authorization so they can start to work.”

Both Maine members of the U.S. House, Democrats Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden, are co-sponsors of the Afghan Adjustment Act. Independent Senator Angus King has agreed to be a co-sponsor. Republican Senator Susan Collins is reviewing the legislation.

Fullmer said of the new arrivals, “They want what we want. They want what you want. They want their children to be successful, they want their children to be free, they want them to be educated, and they want them to have a good life, and they want to contribute to the society.”