America Cannot Repeat the Southeast Asian Refugee Crisis

Afghan Refugees Must Be Offered Refuge Immediately 

For Immediate Release
August 17, 2021

Media contact(s):
Elaine Sanchez Wilson, SEARAC

James Woo, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta

Aisha Yaqoob Mahmood, Asian American Advocacy Fund


WASHINGTON, DC – This week, we watched scenes from Kabul, Afghanistan in horror as Afghans desperately clung to US military aircraft evacuating from the region. The distressing and violent images of the city’s fall reminds us of our experiences at the end of the Vietnam War and the United States’ chaotic exit from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. The events of the past few days underscore America’s moral and political obligation to the tens of thousands of Afghan allies who served alongside American troops during our decades-long war and the millions of other Afghanis impacted during our time there.  

Nearly fifty years ago, millions of Southeast Asian refugees were displaced from their homes following war, genocide, and US intervention in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Through the Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1975, the United States immediately resettled more than 130,000 individuals from these countries, while millions of other individuals escaped for their lives. Over the next three decades, our country would open its doors to more than 1.3 million Southeast Asians, marking the largest resettlement of refugees in American history. In this current moment, we have an opportunity to learn from the past and do better than we did in 1975 by providing immediate refuge and relief to Afghan refugees.

We urge the Administration to: 

  • Increase the refugee resettlement limit and capacity;
  • Evacuate all Afghans beyond just Special Immigrant Visa eligible individuals, their families, and U.S. citizens; 
  • Designate Afghanistan for Temporary Protected Status;  
  • Employ emergency humanitarian parole for Afghans escaping, including women, children, religious and ethnic minorities; and
  • Keep airports in Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar Sharif open to facilitate travel.

“As representatives of the largest refugee community to have ever resettled in the United States, we call on the Biden Administration to uphold its promise of protection for Afghan refugees and their families and children,” said Quyen Dinh, Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC). “Our country has a responsibility to immediately resettle Afghan refugees, many of whom saved the lives of American soldiers and are in great danger of being targeted for persecution. The 1980 Refugee Act allowed my family and our refugee community to find safe haven in the United States. The people of Afghanistan deserve the same refuge during the crisis that befalls their country today.” 

“The United States must act urgently and boldly to help Afghan refugees,” said LaVita Tuff, Policy Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta. “After our decades long military presence in Afghanistan, we cannot now turn our back on the Afghan community during this humanitarian crisis. We know the immeasurable human cost of failing to meet our political and moral obligations to refugees, and we cannot let history repeat itself. We urge this administration to act swiftly and meaningfully to protect Afghan refugees.” 

The Afghan American Foundation has published a list of organizations providing direct, emergency relief to Afghan refugees, which you can find here.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta
Asian American Advocacy Fund
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)