Call to Action: Urge Congress to Support and Pass the Afghan Adjustment Act!
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A secure and stable home for our Afghan Allies
Since the U.S. military evacuation of Afghanistan last year, Immigrant Legal Center (ILC)—our JFON affiliate in Nebraska—has been advising and doing intake screening for Afghan parolees who are being resettled in Omaha. ILC is also now collaborating with local law schools and private attorneys to recruit, train, and mentor pro bono counsel to take on a burgeoning number of Afghan asylum claims.
The ILC is not alone in stepping up to help the Afghan community. Across the country, confused and anxious Afghan evacuees are calling our JFON sites with requests for legal guidance and assistance.
Because of the emergency nature of the evacuation, the Biden administration bypassed traditional refugee processing. Evacuated individuals were vetted and then brought to the U.S. under humanitarian parole, valid for a one- or two-year period.
Unlike refugee or asylum status, humanitarian parole does not provide a path to permanent resident status or citizenship.
On March 16, the Biden administration designated TPS (Temporary Protected Status) for Afghans currently residing in the United States for a period of 18 months. This was a welcome announcement and may shield the evacuees from deportation once their humanitarian parole expires.
TPS, however, is equally temporary. Each successive administration has the discretion to extend or terminate a country’s TPS designation, making the status vulnerable to shifts in politics and policy.
Granting TPS is not good enough. “We owe it to our Afghan allies and the other at-risk individuals we evacuated to create a clear, secure route to permanent status in the United States,” states Anna Deal, ILC legal director, and an NJFON consulting attorney.
Anna outlines the problem with both humanitarian parole and TPS:
- The Department of Homeland Security found that, of over 82,000 Afghan evacuees, some 36,433 of them lack any pathway to permanent legal status in the U.S. These include family members of U.S. citizens, relatives of Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders, and individuals who would qualify for refugee status but can no longer apply for it because they are now in the U.S.
- The only option to access permanent status for most of these individuals is to file an affirmative asylum application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and establish that they have a well-founded fear of persecution in Afghanistan.
- Although Afghan evacuees are entitled to expedited processing of their asylum applications, in practice USCIS asylum offices may be unable to meet these processing deadlines. Afghan evacuees may end up waiting years to present their claim, particularly if their case is referred to immigration court.
- Furthermore, it is very difficult to win an asylum claim; only about 30 percent of affirmative asylum claims are granted and for many countries of origin, the approval rate is far lower.
- Approval rates are, of course, lower for asylum applicants who do not have access to immigration counsel. Given the complex and time-intensive nature of asylum claims, legal service providers—such as our JFON affiliates across the country—will struggle to meet the representation needs of our new Afghan neighbors.
- We have already heard reports of Afghans denied asylum, even when their claims appear meritorious. If Afghan evacuees’ asylum claims are denied after their period of humanitarian parole or TPS has expired, they will be referred for removal proceedings and required to seek asylum before an immigration judge. This is an adversarial proceeding where a DHS attorney argues against asylum eligibility and for deportation. Unsurprisingly, asylum grant rates after referral to the immigration court are far lower than those before the asylum office.
- There are an estimated 36,821 evacuees who have either applied for or are eligible for SIV status based on their work in support of U.S. military and diplomatic efforts in Afghanistan. However, this group may also struggle to obtain permanent status, as the SIV process is extremely backlogged, and approvals have slowed dramatically since the evacuation.
- The asylum system is unlikely to provide a viable pathway to permanent status for many Afghan parolees. While TPS provides an additional level of temporary protection from deportation, it does not itself provide access to permanent residency or citizenship. Tens of thousands of evacuees will remain in legal limbo unless Congress passes legislation to provide them access to permanent lawful status.
We call on Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act (AAA)
An Afghan Adjustment Act would allow Afghan parolees to apply to become lawful permanent residents (green card holders) one year after their arrival, assuming they prove their identity and clear security and background checks.
Because there is PRECEDENT: Throughout the Cold War and beyond—Hungary, Vietnam, Cuba—there are numerous examples of the U.S. government using a combination of parole and adjustment acts for humanitarian protection and in alignment with foreign policy interests.
Because it is FAIR: The AAA will put our new Afghan neighbors on the same legal footing they would have enjoyed had they been admitted through the U.S. resettlement program, rather than through the chaotic and dangerous Kabul evacuation.
Because it is JUST: Following the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, we have a duty to assure that our Afghan allies can now begin to rebuild their lives in safety and security.
Please join us in calling on Congress to support and pass an Afghan Adjustment Act as part of the next congressional must-pass legislation.
Click here to contact your elected officials!
You can also help amplify the message on social media with additional resources from this Evacuate Our Allies social media toolkit.