Let me tell you a little about the “W” family, which will explain why I am passionate about the Afghan Adjustment Act (S. 4787/HR 8685).

It was by a miracle that six individuals boarded two U.S. military aircraft in Kabul on Aug. 15, 2021, narrowly escaping life under the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Violence at the airport meant that only these six of a family of 11 made it out. The trauma of this event includes the separation of a now 5-year-old child here in Utah from her parents and 7-year-old brother who are still in Afghanistan. The psychological injury cannot be adequately articulated.

I was first contacted regarding the W family (names have been omitted to protect their identity) because I am a Relief Society president in the Avenues, where they’ve been resettled. I am also a social worker, trauma therapist and passionate humanitarian advocate. Since meeting them in January 2022, I have become a surrogate mother to the “W” family. (They call me “Mom.”) I’ve helped them enroll in and access English classes, school, jobs, insurance coverage, bank accounts, drivers licenses, a vehicle, clothing, household items, health appointments, etc. We gather for birthdays, holidays, events, outings — in short, this family has become like my own. 

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Escape from Afghanistan

The Afghan Adjustment Act will provide Afghans with a path toward expeditious, permanent citizenship, allowing them peace in at least one stressful area of their lives: the fear of being sent back to Afghanistan.

This fear lives very real in the hearts of every Afghan refugee. Each tells personal stories of the Taliban’s subjugation of women and ruthless brutality. The country is experiencing famine and economic collapse. But Afghans on humanitarian parole are told they must complete all paperwork within two years or be sent back. This means hiring an immigration attorney, a daunting task for those facing language, cultural and financial barriers. 

I cannot help but notice that our country has treated our Ukrainian refugees with greater respect than our Afghan refugees. I don’t want to believe that it is due to skin color or fear. But let’s be honest, we fear. Can we not operate instead from a place of love? The Afghan community shares our values of faith, hope and love. They demonstrate dedication and a desire to be fully contributing, integrated members of our society.  

Last night as I was leaving the W’s home, the 31-year-old aunt who has guardianship over her 5-year-old niece and 17-year-old sister asked me to pray for her. She said my prayers give her comfort. We sat side by side on her couch, her head on my shoulder, my arms wrapped around her as I prayed for her to have peace and confidence as she continues the daunting task of daily caring for two children who are not hers but have become her responsibility. Afterwards, she remained in the crook of my arm for a few minutes, seeming to relax into a state of calm. She thanked me, hugged me and expressed her love. 

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The Afghan Adjustment Act, explained

These are real people with real needs. I urge Utah to be on the right side of history as we demonstrate Christian love this holiday season. Let’s find it in our hearts to assist in passing the Afghan Adjustment Act this year, showing our Afghan friends we accept and trust them; allowing them to experience the gift of safety, security, dignity and peace they so richly deserve. 

What can be done to help? Please contact our Utah Congressmen today to ensure the Afghan Adjustment Act passes this year! Let them know this is an issue of import to you. The U.S. Congress has shown bipartisan support for this bill, including Utah’s Rep. John Curtis. But I urge Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney, as well as Reps. Blake Moore, Chris Stewart and Burgess Owens to do the same. Thank you, Gov. Cox, for your heartfelt support for the Afghan Adjustment Act and for Afghans in Utah! 

Let’s align ourselves, Utah! Our hearts knit in unity. We can do this!

Kerry Wickman, a resident of Salt Lake City, is a social worker, therapist and member of Mormon Women for Ethical Government.