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EDITORIAL: Do right by those Biden left in Afghanistan

The joyous reunion of one Afghani family highlights how little the Biden Administration has done for those who risked their lives to help America.

The Review-Journal’s Mary Hynes recently chronicled a heartwarming story with gut-wrenching implications. The wonderful part was an improbable family reunion.

Mohammad “Benny” Shirzad is a young man who escaped Afghanistan in 2021. As the United States retreated from the country, Shirzad was working as a flight attendant for an airline conducting evacuation flights. American service members warned him that he and his co-workers wouldn’t be safe to stay in the country, and he left on a military aircraft. His wife and parents tried, but they couldn’t make it on the plane. Shirzad went to Fort Dix in New Jersey before ending up in Las Vegas.

He was safe, but separated from his wife, Shabana, and his parents Abdul and Nazanin, who remained in Afganistan, before fleeing to Pakistan. They hoped it would be safer than Kabul. But after seeing the Taliban there also, they retreated to an apartment.

This wasn’t the first time this family faced danger. Five years ago, Shirzad worked for a U.S. government contractor and face threats on his life. Someone shot at his car. Others threatened to kidnap his mother. As a teenager, Shirzad served as a volunteer translator for American soldiers. Per an application for humanitarian parole, Nazanin previously served a nongovernmental organization as an aid worker. She faced threats on her life, too.

The U.S. government was supposed to help people like this come here. That was the bargain made repeatedly by service members in Afghanistan. Risk your life to help the U.S. military, and you can come to America.

But the government isn’t keeping its end of the bargain. That’s obvious even in this situation, which turned out better than many. On his flight out of Kabul, Shirzad served as a translator for Lt. Christopher Hoffman, the pilot. Hoffman gave Shirzad his cellphone number, which he called when he was penniless and alone at Fort Dix. That led to Shirzad coming to Las Vegas to live with the pilot’s parents, Scott and Ellen Hoffman. Scott Hoffman is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel. Dismayed by what was happening to the country’s Afghan allies, the couple were determined to help.

That assistance was much needed last year after Shirzad and Shabana won the “green card lottery,” which gave her the ability to come here. Less than half of 1 percent of applicants are randomly chosen. Shabana then needed the help of Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto’s office to arrange an interview at a U.S. Embassy that was required to obtain the visa.

Getting one person to the U.S. took “10 months, thousands of dollars of fees, a retired Air Force) officer familiar with bureaucracies, a pro-bono lawyer, two senators” and articles in the Review-Journal, Scott Hoffman said last year.

In January, Abdul and Nazanin made it here as humanitarian parolees. The four are safe in America — for now. Abdul and Nazanin have applied for asylum, but getting an interview can take six to 10 years. They’re allowed to stay for two years.

It shouldn’t be this way. The U.S. government has a moral obligation to help those who helped us. A program should have been in place before Presdient Joe Biden’s catastrophic surrender in Afghanistan. That one hasn’t been established since is shameful.

The need is obvious, but so is the reason for inaction. Mr. Biden’s retreat led to a dramatic drop in his job approval. Before it, his approval rating hovered around nine points in the positive. Afterward and ever since, it’s been negative, often greater than nine points underwater. Creating a program to bring over Afghan allies would put Mr. Biden’s worst issue in front of voters. Little wonder Democrats, including Ms. Cortez Masto and Sen. Jacky Rosen, have been so hesitant to do so.

This inaction is embarrassing and a stain on America’s character. Mr. Biden has refused to lead on this issue. Congress needs to step up and help the American allies Mr. Biden left behind.

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