Afghan refugees living in Houston say future unclear

HOUSTON – Unless Congress takes action, many Afghan refugees living in the United States will see their legal status put in jeopardy next year.

Congress has yet to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act, which would provide a more clear path to permanent legal status for those who supported the US military prior to our withdrawal.

“I do not see my future back in Afghanistan right now,” said Zubairullah during an interview with KPRC 2 at his southwest Houston apartment.

Since he still has relatives in Afghanistan, KPRC 2 is only using Zubairullah’s first name.

“Would you be in danger if you went back?” asked KPRC 2 Investigator Robert Arnold.

“Yes, too much,” he said.

Zubairullah is a father of six who was able to evacuate his family as the US was withdrawing from the country and the Taliban was assuming control.

According to Interfaith Ministries, Zubairullah is one of 5,400 Afghan refugees who resettled in Houston. Interfaith Ministries helped many of these families.

“Helping to get their children enrolled in school, helping them find work as that becomes available, and certainly helping them get through all of their documentation needs, which are extensive,” said Interfaith’s director of communications, Sucre Woodley.

Zubairullah was a police officer in Afghanistan and is considered an expert on fingerprint tracing. He even attended the FBI National Academy in 2014. He said his close working relationship with American investigators is why he can’t go home.

“Everyone has that hope because they leave everything back in Afghanistan. Everyone comes to the United States (and) they cannot go back to Afghanistan,” said Zubairullah. “I’m very happy, my kids, my family, my kids go to school. (I’m) very happy every morning they wake up (and) they go to school. They’re very happy.”

The protections and resources our government granted to thousands of Afghan refugees, which is allowing them to live and work in the United States, runs out in a year. This is why many advocates are pressuring the federal government to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act.

The measure was not included in a recent short-term funding bill and it is unclear when Congress will address this issue.

Afghan refugees can still apply for asylum or Special Immigrant Visas, however, both of these pathways are already facing massive backlogs.

About the Authors:

Award winning investigative journalist who joined KPRC 2 in July 2000. Husband and father of the Master of Disaster and Chaos Gremlin. “I don’t drink coffee to wake up, I wake up to drink coffee.”