The George Washington University joined a coalition of more than 500 colleges and universities in urging the Biden administration to protect Afghan students, scholars, researchers and their families seeking to come to the United States, as well as those already in U.S. higher education institutions.
In a letter addressed to Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration said that swift action in the wake of the turmoil surrounding the U.S. troop withdrawal “will provide much-needed and well-deserved protection for this vulnerable population and signal to current and prospective Afghan students and scholars that the United States is the preeminent destination for those wanting to study, live and contribute.”
As a member of the alliance, GW echoed its call to ensure the safety of Afghan scholars and their families and provide a welcoming learning environment for Afghans in search of better opportunities in the United States.
The letter implored the administration to continue flights and evacuations from Afghanistan past its Aug. 31 if necessary to allow safe passage for Afghans, including those pursuing higher education programs in the United States. The alliance also asked for assistance in helping Afghans currently studying and residing in this country to maintain or change their immigration status to avoid persecution. Among the alliance’s recommendations are granting special student relief status and waiving some requirements to make it easier for students to receive visas and remain in the United States after the completion of their education program.
Other recommendations include granting temporary protected status to Afghan nationals in the United States, deferring deportations and extending humanitarian immigration exceptions for Afghan scholars and their dependents. The group also called for creating a new exception for at-risk Afghan women and girls who lack access to a comprehensive education.
The conditions in Afghanistan have worsened. A bombing outside Kabul airport on Thursday that killed 13 U.S. troops left hundreds of people dead and injured.
“These urgent conditions and the dangers facing vulnerable Afghan nationals, especially Afghan women, call for the pursuit of all available protection mechanisms,” said Miriam Feldblum, the alliance’s executive director.
The alliance brings together college and university presidents and chancellors on immigration issues that impact higher education. Other members include the University of Miami, Northeastern University, Tufts University, Wake Forest University, the University of Rochester, New York University, American University and Georgetown University.