Thousands of Afghans apply for humanitarian parole in the U.S.

When the Taliban were about to take control of the Afghan capital, Los Angeles lawyer Vogel Mohmand watched, terrified, and racked his brains to find ways to help her family and others escape.

She entered a document outlining possible immigration pathways for Afghans seeking to come to the United States, and posted it on social media. Hundreds of strangers responded, begging her to seek legal help.

Now, Mohmand is taking the lead in efforts to persuade the U.S. government to expand legal access to the U.S., namely humanitarian parole for thousands of Afghans, even though the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is working to process the applications it has already received.

ANAR plan -Afghan Propaganda and Resource Network-Co-led by Mohmand and two other Afghan American women, it draws on the US model of providing similar assistance to groups in Latin America and South Asia in the past.To date, the organization has helped approximately 9,000 Afghans apply for parole to enter the United States

According to humanitarian parole, this is not a way to obtain citizenship. The federal government can cut the red tape of typical visa procedures and temporarily allow people to enter the United States for emergencies or public interest reasons.Parole is issued on a case-by-case basis and is usually reserved for terrible circumstances, such as giving someone a few days Visit dying relatives.

In the past 70 years, it has also been used repeatedly to quickly introduce groups from countries where the United States has participated, including those fleeing the Cuban revolution, and Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laos after the end of the Vietnam War.After arriving here, these people can apply for work permits and Temporary refugee cash and medical assistance.

Unlike this broader effort initiated by the U.S. government in the past, this time advocates will not wait for an official plan. They hope that a large number of applications will persuade the Biden administration to establish a formal plan to quickly evacuate Afghans who have not been able to leave the country through a plan led by the United States. Allies welcome, Which mainly provides fast-track channels for Afghans associated with the United States

But this group has hit a wall. Advocates say that since the U.S. military withdrew from Afghanistan on August 30, none of their applications have been processed. At the same time, the overwhelmed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service issued an agency-wide request for volunteers to process applications from Afghanistan and has begun training additional staff to help respond to the surge in requests.

“The Immigration Department is actively allocating additional human resources to assist with the current workload of parole applications,” said spokesperson Victoria Palmer. “In the coming weeks, the agency will have more staff assigned to this work.”

As part of the “Welcome Allies” operation, nearly 70,000 Afghans were released on parole to the United States.Another 20,000 Afghans Apply for parole separately Palmer said that since August. The agency usually receives less than 2,000 applications per year for people of all nationalities.

Since July 1, the USCIS has only approved 93 parole applications for Afghans. Palmer said some people are still in their home country, while others have arrived in a third country and are awaiting further processing.

Applicants must complete a face-to-face review and biometric screening before they can be approved for humanitarian parole. Palmer said that due to the closure of the Kabul embassy, ​​applicants must travel to a third country to do so. That is assuming that the Taliban let them go.

The agency issues notices to eligible applicants informing them of their travel requirements. If approved, the State Department will give the applicants a boarding letter stating that they have been approved to enter the United States, and they can then take commercial flights at their own expense.

Congress established humanitarian parole under the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. In 1956, it was used for the first time after the failed revolution in the country to bring more than 20,000 Hungarians into the country. Recently, its use has fallen into individual cases and established programs, such as the Central American Minors Program launched in 2014.

The founders of the ANAR project believe that this is the only direct option for many people who are still in danger under the Taliban.

Many ANAR program applicants are not eligible for Special immigrant visa Afghans or priority designation Refugee Admissions Program Because they are not working for the United States but for Afghan government staff, teachers, journalists, widows and other women and girls. Some family members with American citizens can guarantee their permanent residency. Many people are eligible for asylum.

“We are at a unique moment now,” Mohmand said. “We just don’t have a few years of free time. The real goal is to get people here safely.”

Support for groups Throughout September, they have raised more than $350,000 to pay the $575 USCIS application fee per application. Funding was provided through Pangea Legal Services, a non-profit organization in San Francisco.

Mohmand believes that the United States owes a way out to all Afghans, not just those who work directly with the federal government.

“The actions of the U.S. government and military caused this problem. The U.S. legalized the Taliban Doha Peace Agreement Then literally hand over the government to them,” she said, referring to an agreement signed by the Trump administration and the Taliban last year. “The United States intervenes everywhere, but I think the Afghan people have special responsibilities due to decades of occupation. responsibility. ”

The group’s approach is risky. USCIS can keep the money and decide to reject these applications. But Mohmand hopes that the strategy-and payment-will force the federal government to take action.

The ANAR project is not the only organization seeking humanitarian parole for Afghans. In a letter The organization was sent to President Biden last month to be signed by other non-profit organizations and individual law firms. Advocates stated that they expect to submit at least 30,000 applications to USCIS and charge the agency more than $17 million in fees.

Cardinal Teresa Brown, who is in charge of immigration policy at the bipartisan policy center and works in the Obama administration’s Department of Homeland Security, said that the Biden administration is wandering from one crisis to another, some of which have been brewing even before Afghanistan. It has been unplugged for a long time.

USCIS can process several months, even for basic requests such as green card replacement. In recent years, the agency has twice tried to increase fees, but was suspended due to lawsuits.

Brown said she understands the urgency behind humanitarian parole requests, but the agency needs time and resources to build capacity.

“Everything is urgent now. Do you give priority to people in Afghanistan, people in military bases, or people in overseas bases?” she said. “Every time we encounter extraordinary immigration incidents-Cubans and Haitians, unaccompanied minors in Central America, Afghans-we suddenly have to draw resources from other places and act as if we had previously Never experienced this. Why don’t we prepare for immigration emergencies as we deal with natural disasters?”

Mohmand worked with Laila Ayub, another Afghan-American lawyer based in Virginia, to develop the initial immigration resource document. Later, Saamia Haqiq, a former colleague of the University of California, Berkeley, provided her time. Haqiq has experience in resettlement and resettlement organizations and has just quit his job.

“It all happened so quickly,” Mohmand said. “Now this is simply the full-time job of Saamia and Laila. I do this part-time job through my job. It has changed our lives.”

Since then, Haqiq has submitted more than 20 applications on behalf of family members, including a 25-year-old cousin who was a TV reporter for TOLO News, one of the country’s largest news media, and an activist to promote women’s education.

“The work he did made him proud, and now he regrets it because it brought risks to his family,” she said. “The Taliban don’t care about one person-usually their goal is the whole family.”

Nadia D., 49, of Fairfax, Virginia, helped 96 distant relatives in Afghanistan apply for humanitarian parole through the ANAR project. She asked The Times not to publish her last name because she feared that her family would be retaliated against.

Her family includes former Afghan government staff, teachers, engineers, non-profit organization workers and journalists. She said that no one can work and the children no longer go to school. She added that Taliban fighters would knock on her nephew’s door every night and ask him where he is.

Nadia said she was happy that thousands of Afghans working in the United States were evacuated. But she hopes the federal government can do more.

“Everyone has the right to be happy and to live in safety,” Nadia said in Dari through an interpreter. “I will pray that my family can also have it.”

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