Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and 66 of her colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), sent a letter to President Joe Biden on August 27, urging him to expand efforts to welcome Afghan refugees into the United States.

In the letter, the lawmakers called on Biden to provide humanitarian parole to Afghans in need, including to the families of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants and their families, those who would have qualified for the Priority 2 program, and other vulnerable groups, including women’s rights activists, human rights defenders, religious minorities, LGBTQ+ individuals, and journalists.

Portland, Maine August 28 Photo | Joseph Shaw

They also urged Biden to increase the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program cap to no less than 200,000 when the Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions for FY22 is issued before October 1st. Raising the cap, which has been revised to 62,500 in FY21, would help support Afghans and others in need around the world.

“After decades of disastrous U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, one thing is clear: we have a moral responsibility to provide safe harbor and refuge for the Afghan people,” the letter read. “The U.S. war in Afghanistan has caused irreparable harm to Afghans as well as to the Americans who served there. Now, the growing humanitarian crisis is further exposing the horrific costs of our endless wars. The United States must do everything in its power to protect those who have borne the brunt of this decades-long conflict, especially Afghans who are at increased risk of persecution or death by the Taliban.

“To those questioning if it is really our responsibility to provide refuge for those fleeing conflict, persecution, or dire living conditions – yes, it is. In fact, it is not only our responsibility, but it is our greatest strength,” the letter continued.

The Trump administration lowered refugee caps to a historic low of 15,000. During his campaign for president, Biden committed to “set the annual global refugee admissions cap to 125,000, and seek to raise it over time commensurate with our responsibility, our values, and the unprecedented global need.” With the emerging threat to hundreds of thousands of Afghans now under Taliban rule, the lawmakers are calling on Biden to uphold that pledge and deliver a significant increase to refugee admissions: “Mr. President, the time to act to save lives is now. We are ready to work with you to appropriate the necessary funds to be used for humanitarian needs and, specifically, as is necessary to ramp up the evacuation and processing of Afghans and others seeking refuge around the world.”