The national security supplemental plan released by Senate negotiators on Sunday night includes provisions to help Afghan allies immigrate to and resettle in the United States, reviving hopes among advocates that lawmakers may address the lingering issue.
But key House leaders have already come out in opposition to the plan, putting its future in doubt.
The $118 billion plan provides $60 billion in new military aid for Ukraine, $14.1 billion for security assistance to Israel, and $20.2 billion to implement new border security measures in the U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the chamber could vote on the measure this week.
It also includes several pages focused on “fulfilling promises to Afghan allies,” taking from major parts of the Afghan Adjustment Act, which has been languishing in Congress since the end of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan in August 2021.
The measure would clear up pathways to legal residency for evacuees and enhance vetting of those who seek it. It would also extend special immigrant visa eligibility to Afghans who fought alongside U.S. armed forces but never formally signed contracts with U.S. government entities, including Afghan special operations troops and female members of the Afghan National Security Forces.
Advocacy groups estimate as many as 150,000 Afghans who assisted the U.S. mission were left behind, including individuals who worked closely with U.S. military forces as interpreters and combat assistants. Thousands have State Department visa applications that have been pending for years.
The supplemental bill would extend special protections for Afghan allies until 2030 and establish new categories to help relatives of some Afghan nationals already in the U.S. to gain immigration status here.
With Honor Action, which has been advocating for the legislative moves for years, called the assistance for Afghan refugees long overdue.
“It’s critical that Congress uphold our nation’s word to our Afghan allies and continue to defend democracy across the globe,” CEO Rye Barcott said in a statement. “We are urging Congress to pass the defense supplemental quickly to address these issues. Our national security cannot wait any longer.”
Similarly, Jennie Murray, president and CEO of the National Immigration Forum, said her organization was pleased the supplemental “addresses certainty for our Afghan allies” along with other important immigration reforms.
Last week, in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee ranking member Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, called the legislation critical to “bolster our security and give Afghans a shot at the American dream.” The White House has already endorsed the plan.
But conservative opposition to the Afghan Allies Act has kept the measure stalled in recent years, and broader Republican concerns about other provisions in the supplemental bill could again sideline the proposal.
House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., took to social media on Sunday to label the measure “dead on arrival” in the House because of a failure to address “the border catastrophe the president has created.”
Several key Senate Republicans have also voiced concerns, raising the question of whether the legislation can even survive a vote in that chamber.
Schumer said he hopes to vote on the measure on Wednesday. Senate leaders will need at least 10 Republican lawmakers to support the proposal to advance it.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.