ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Afghan refugees who made it to the U.S. after their birth country had fallen to Taliban control are now at risk of being sent back.

However, there is legislation that could prevent this from happening but right now it is stuck in the Senate. Now, a Rochester organization is pushing for Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment act before it’s too late.

On August 30, 2021, the United States ended its nearly 20-year-long occupation in Afghanistan after the Taliban had taken back control. The U.S. left behind millions of Afghans desperate to flee, but also evacuated thousands. Zainab Hussaini was one of those thousands.

Hussaini has been living in the U.S. for over a year now and explained the feeling of ‘home’ has finally registered, only to be haunted by the idea of it being taken away.

“When I was driving here, I was looking at the streets and the homes and I started to feel a bit strange. I was starting to feel like this was my home but now I am wondering, will I stay here or will I be deported to Afghanistan?” Hussaini questioned.

Hussaini was born in Iran as a refugee after her parents decided to flee their home country of Afghanistan because of Taliban control.

When U.S. troops reentered Afghanistan, Hussaini and her family came back hoping for a new future in 2002. She said they lived there for about 18 years where she accomplished many feats including being the first woman to run a marathon in Afghanistan, as well as working with Skateistan, an international non-profit organization that uses skateboarding and education to empower children.

However, that all crumbled when the Taliban returned last year, and Hussaini knew it was time to flee yet again.

“On August 15, I was in Kabul and I was working in my office and I heard that the Taliban entered the city,” Hussaini said “We stayed home for around two weeks, and then we learned our names were going to be on the list of evacuations so we went to the airport. We tried to see if we are able to go inside the airport, and for the first day, it was impossible.”

The following day, Hussaini and her family went back to the airport and they were able to get through.

“When we entered the airport, and we got into the car, I was feeling, ‘That’s the end and I am safe together with my family,’” Hussaini recalled.

Now, after being settled in the U.S. for over a year, Hussaini is at risk of being deported because she’s here on Humanitarian Parole.

Ellen Smith is the executive director of Keeping Our Promise, a local group working to resettle refugees in Rochester. She is also the woman who has helped get dozens of Afghan families to Rochester — including Hussaini.

“There’s just this two-year window of parole and at the end of that two years, legally, you can be sent back to Afghanistan,” said Smith.

According to Smith, Afghan refugees here on humanitarian parole have two options to become permanent residents: They can either apply for a Special Immigrant Visa or seek asylum. However, with the number of asylum cases, the lack of lawyers, and the limited time frame, local groups feel there needs to be another way.

“The solution to this is for Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act. And what that will do is give permanent residency to those Afghans that came in on humanitarian parole,” Smith said.

The Afghan Adjustment Act would be able to get rid of what Hussaini and her family feel is a ticking time bomb of being deported to a country that is unrecognizable.

“Back in my country, I have nothing. Nothing is waiting for me. No one is waiting for me. For sure, we will be arrested by Taliban,” Hussaini.

As of now, the legislation is being held up in the senate by lawmakers like Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley who has also removed the annual extension of the SIV program from a series of laws specifying the annual budget of the department of defense, also known as the NDDA.

News 8 has reached out to the offices of New York Senator Chuck Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for comment on this matter but they have yet to respond. However, local Congressman Joe Morelle who is a part of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Armed Services has shown support for the act and released the following statement:

“I fully support the Afghan Adjustment Act and am proud to cosponsor this important legislation. For decades, the courage and sacrifice of our Afghan allies protected our troops, proving to be an invaluable asset to our Armed Forces and saving American lives. We have a duty to ensure these men and women and their families are safe from retaliation, and it is unconscionable that a small group of partisan actors is preventing this from happening. I urge my colleagues in Congress to take action on this legislation to ensure the United States continues to be true to our word, protect our allies, and lead from the front.”

If action is not taken to pass the act, thousands of Afghan refugees are at risk of losing the life they fought to secure here in the United States.

 “There’s just not anything for our families to go back to. There is no society for our families to fit in, in Afghanistan,” Smith said. “The best thing you can do for our families is contact our two senators and our member of Congress and ask them to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act.”

As for Hussaini, she’s not sure what her future holds.

“I did my asylum interview in July and we still don’t have any response. I don’t know what will be happening to me next. But I am really hopeful that this act will be passed, and we will receive our green cards, and there would be a future for us here. But right now, it’s a little bit foggy for me,” Hussaini said. “They are playing with thousands of people’s future.”

Time is of the essence in this case because many of the refugees here on parole are coming up on their time limit to be granted asylum. Congress adjourns on December 22.