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'Afghanistan is not safe': Northeast Ohio Afghan refugees face uncertain path to becoming permanent citizens

Some N.E. Ohio Afghan refugees face uncertain path toward becoming permanent U.S. residents
Posted at 10:21 PM, Sep 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-15 23:19:23-04

CLEVELAND — Zurah and Hazradullah Sadat and their three young sons were forced from their home in Afghanistan, moving to Cleveland in August of 2021, but now more than a year later, the families path toward becoming permanent U.S. residents is still uncertain.

The couple told News 5 the complex path in trying to seek asylum or getting a green card is causing them to run short on time, that if they aren't established as permanent resident within the next year, they could be facing being sent back to war torn Afghanistan and the dangers in dealing with the Taliban.

“It’s safe, here it is safe, Afghanistan is not safe," said Zurah. “I am really afraid to go back to Afghanistan, I’m not safe in Afghanistan, my children are no safe in Afghanistan.”

Local Afghan refugees find tough path to citizenship
Zurah and Hazradullah Sadat and their three young sons were forced from their home in Afghanistan, moving to Cleveland in August of 2021.

The Sadat family is receiving a wide variety of assistance from Cleveland's Building Hope in the City and its Director of Refugee Ministries, Eileen Wilson. The organization has been responsible for helping 1,353 Northeast Ohio refugees obtain their U.S. citizenship since 2003.

Wilson told News 5, just like many of the 76,000 Afghan refugees who escaped the Taliban last August, Zurah Sadat was helping the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, working with USAID in helping Afghan women in her county set up farms and a sustainable food source.

Wilson explained passage of the now delayed Afghan Adjustment Act in Washington D.C. is essential in streamlining the process of obtaining a green card and becoming a permanent U.S. resident. Wilson said without the Afghan Adjustment Act the future of hundreds of northeast Ohio Afghan families remains precarious and uncertain.

“So this journey has been wrought with both fear a trauma for the people and all they did wrong was help the U.S. military," Wilson said. “And while they’re waiting to go through these processes, they have an expiration date pretty much everybody has to leave by next September.”

Local Afghan refugees face tough path toward citizenship
Cleveland's Building Hope in the City Director of Refugee Ministries, Eileen Wilson.

“I can’t imagine a scenario where we put Zuhrah, her husband and their three children on a plane back to Afghanistan. We have begun to see people out of the Ukraine, we see people coming in and they’re in the same situation. There is no point where anybody wants to see families put on planes back to war zones and possibly be killed.”

News 5 contacted both Ohio Senator's Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) about the bipartisan Afghan Adjustment Act, to get their thoughts on the measure and when it could potentially be voted on in the Senate.

Senator Brown issued the following statement:

“Ohio has a long history of welcoming people in need -- especially refugees, who have built strong businesses and thriving communities throughout the state. We have a moral obligation to help Afghans who assisted us and our allies. I’ll continue to do everything I can to make sure the Afghan refugees have the best chance of starting – and continuing – their new lives.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown

Senator Portman's office responded immediately to our request, and said the issue is being handled by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, but News 5 is still waiting for an official statement.

Meanwhile, Wilson said passage of the measure is needed as soon as possible to help refugees who helped the U.S government.

“We need to stop looking at politics and to stop looking at this like they’re numbers. The passing of the Afghan Adjustment Act takes that all away," she said.