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Van Hollen Joins Other Senators in Seeking Protection for Afghan Women

August 22nd, 2021 by WCBC Radio

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joined Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) along with 43 Senate colleagues, including Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Ranking Member Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), in urging the Biden administration to take swift, robust action to protect and support Afghan women leaders facing unparalleled danger following the Taliban’s violent sweep across Afghanistan and seizure of Kabul. In a bipartisan letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, the senators called on the Administration to create a humanitarian parole category specifically for women leaders, activists, human rights defenders, parliamentarians, journalists, and members of the Female Tactical Platoon of the Afghan Special Security Forces, and to streamline the paperwork process to facilitate referrals to allow for fast, humane, and efficient relocation to the United States.

“We and our staff are receiving regular reports regarding the targeting, threatening, kidnapping, torturing, and assassinations of women for their work defending and promoting democracy, equality, higher education, and human rights. While we welcomed the expansion of the eligibility requirements for Special Immigrant Visas and the creation of the Priority 2 category in the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, we must also protect those women who might fall through the cracks of the U.S. Government’s response,” the senators wrote, raising concerns over reports of rampant war crimes – including public beatings and flogging of women, sexual violence, and forced marriage – in areas captured by the Taliban. “We greatly appreciate your efforts to help save the lives of Afghans who have advanced U.S. and Afghan joint interests over the last generation, standing for peace, democracy, and equality. We are all in agreement that we owe them our unqualified support.”

In addition to expressing their support for the Administration’s efforts to evacuate those who are applying for humanitarian parole and those applying for Priority 1 or 2 pathways, including by allocating seats for them on SIV evacuation flights, the senators urged the Administration to increase processing capacity within U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and to immediately appoint an interagency refugee coordinator. 

“Particularly for women who are currently targets—even hunted by Taliban fighters who are going house-to-house with their names—the path to protection and safety under the Priority 2 designation is not accessible,” the senators added. “While we understand there is little processing capacity at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, for these women to access a third country for processing is almost or completely impossible with all borders crossings now closed or controlled by the Taliban.”  

Joining Senators Van Hollen, Menendez, and Shaheen in signing the letter were Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.).