Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Afghan migrants face serious conflict without Congress’s help

The 76,000 Afghans who were airlifted from their country to the US last year have made a fresh start in the US, but they have no guarantees of stay unless Congress passes legislation that makes it legal for forced Afghans position will give way. To abscond

Evacuations and their allies are holding a day of action Thursday to push lawmakers to include legal status for Afghans in the US as part of a broader budget bill largely focused on relief for Ukraine. .

President Joe Biden called for the inclusion of Afghans in the law, and some lawmakers voiced their support.

but Several attempts to include this version of the measure, called the Afghan Adjustment Act, have failed due to objections from Senate Republicans. If it is released again, Afghans welcomed by the US will be left to fend for themselves here if the Taliban are driven out of their country.

The two main options for long-term protection available to Afghans are asylum and special immigration status – both complex, potentially costly and uncertain processes.

“I can’t even plan my life and business here for more than a year,” Maryam Youssef, a journalist and entrepreneur now settled in Washington, DC, said in an interview.

Yusufi was a well-known face in the Afghan media, having worked with several local and international platforms, including the US-funded Voice of America. She started a small business designing and selling traditional luxury Afghan clothing to local and international consumers just a year before the fall of Kabul.

Joseph said, “You have life, you have family and you have business, and suddenly you have to leave them all behind and look for safety somewhere else.”

Youssef is working to restart her business after months of struggling to settle in the US. She had shipped some of her products to the US and now wants to register her brand here. “It’s a new beginning for me, and I’m excited about it,” she said.

Now she just needs to make sure she can continue.

Temporary protection expires

Security is only temporary for Yusuf. Last August, the Biden administration used a measure known as humanitarian parole to allow Afghans to enter the US for a period of two years. Parole status is not recognized as immigration status, and there is no path to permanent residency for those entering the country on parole.

Since parole status is temporary, these Afghans will have to adjust their status to avoid longer stays and possible deportation – which could mean obtaining a green card, asylum or another visa.

Afghan Refugees Arrive At Dulles International Airport On August 27, 2021, After Afghanistan Fell To The Taliban.
Afghan refugees arrive at Dulles International Airport on August 27, 2021, after Afghanistan fell to the Taliban.

Tom Williams via Getty Images

,The worst-case scenario for Afghans unable to adjust to their situation is that current temporary security options are exhausted and they are unable to find another way,” said Sarah, president of USAHello, a nonprofit that works for refugees. Ivory said. “In this case, they will go undecided and risk deportation.”

Biden Administration announced in March Designation of Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for any Afghan living in the US as of March 15. This protects Afghan parolees from returning in unsafe conditions – but it will only extend temporary protection and does not guarantee permanent residency.

Permanent residency and final citizenship alone do not protect people from deportation. It would also allow them to apply to bring relatives to the US, something many Afghans are desperate to do.

“My wife and children are in danger” [in Afghanistan]And I want to bring them at the earliest,” Sultanzai said, requesting that his full name not be used for security concerns.

Sultanzai is a former member of the Afghan Security Forces, who worked closely with US forces in eastern Afghanistan until 2018. He was deported to the US last August and now lives in the DC area.

Sultanzai had been on the Taliban’s “kill list” for years, and many of his comrades had been brutally executed in recent years. Rather than risk his family’s safety on the road to Kabul, he sets out alone to see if he can locate his former superiors first and take his loved ones out later. He was able to enter the airport, but immediately boarded a flight. It was too late to help his family.

He recalled that during boarding someone told him, “Save yourself first, then bring your family later.”

But he’s not sure how to do it. Afghan parole is one of the ways to be able to adjust your position to a more permanent position special immigrant visa (SIV) program. Applicants must be employed by an approved institution for at least one year and must also receive a letter of support from their supervisor.

“I feel abandoned and confused,” Sultanzai said. He said his US supervisors had guaranteed him a SIV while working with him. He has enough certificates and photographs to prove that he has worked with Americans, but is unable to obtain letters of support from them as he has been out of his position for many years and has lost his contacts.

“They all disappeared, no email address, no phone number,” Sultanzai said. Their inability to communicate in English also prevents them from reaching other people who can help them.

Many Afghans are currently in various stages of obtaining SIVs and are unsure of their next steps.

Yousufi also wants to achieve SIV status based on her work with Voice of America. But she has received her initial approval after only four months and is yet to file a petition.

The program has a backlog of thousands of applications, making it even more difficult for SIV applicants to adjust their status on time, especially those who have recently applied to the program.

Those who do not qualify for the SIV program must file a petition for asylum.

Secretary Of State Antony Blinken Meets With Recently Resettled Afghans With Staff Members And Volunteers From Local Refugee Resettlement Agencies At The Lutheran Immigration And Refugee Service On December 20, 2021 In Alexandria, Virginia.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with recently resettled Afghans with staff members and volunteers from local refugee resettlement agencies at the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service on December 20, 2021 in Alexandria, Virginia.

navigating the asylum system

Most Afghan parolees have only four months left to file an asylum petition, which is currently the only option for most of them to adjust their status. All asylum applicants must apply within one year of their last admission to the US

SIV applicants are also considering applying for asylum during these next four months as there has been no progress on their application and they do not want to wait any longer.

“I don’t want to risk waiting to hear from SIV,” Yusufi said. He has only a few months left to get legal help, prepare documents and submit his petitions.

But like the SIV program, the asylum system is highly backlogged, demanding and hard to navigate. The US already had a 400,000-case backlog of asylum applications before this wave of Afghans arrived

“There is a very high threshold for asylum,” said Krish O’Mara Vignaraja, president and CEO of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, a group that supports refugees and migrants.

The petitioner must have sufficient documents to prove that he is personally at risk of harassment if he is to return to his country. These documents may not be available to Afghans, who had to pass through Taliban checkpoints on their way out of the country.

“Some [asylum-seekers] They may have also destroyed documents that aided in the asylum proceedings, but were sentenced to death at the hands of the Taliban.

— Krish O’Mara Vignaraja, President and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

“Some people have also destroyed documents that would be helpful in asylum proceedings, but would be punishable by death at the hands of the Taliban,” Vignaraja said.

It is nearly impossible to navigate the asylum process in the US without the assistance of an immigration attorney. There are not enough pro-lawyers to help thousands of Afghans in such a short period of time. Also, most Afghans do not have the financial resources to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees.

“Their cases can be dismissed,” Ivory said. “Especially if they don’t have the legal backing in putting their petition together.”

For Afghans like Sultanzai who lack English skills, navigating the process can be even more difficult. Many Afghans are unaware that they must apply for asylum before it is too late. Rehabilitation agencies, which assist Afghans with basic resettlement needs such as housing and food programs, only provide assistance for 90 days. The rest is on them.

Sultanzai is yet to get legal aid. “I don’t even know what to do next,” he said.

a legislative solution

Biden last week called on Congress to pass legislation that would help Afghan parolees adjust their position as part of his request for emergency supplemental funding for Ukraine., Refugees The groups urged their members to convene representatives and share their stories on Thursday to push Congress to include them in funding.

“We need to ask everyone across our country to call on our representatives and senators to join them in the Ukrainian supplement,” said Shawn VanDiver, founder and board chairman of AfghanIvac, helping to relocate and resettle at-risk Afghans. Coalition of organizations HuffPost. “This is the shot we have. There will be no second chance until 2023 and neither the Afghans or the stalwarts they stood with can wait that long. We need it to happen now and we need to be on both sides.” People need not play the partisan game.”

Krish O'Mara Wignaraja, President And Ceo Of The Lutheran Immigration And Refugee Service, Speaks During A Press Conference Urging Members Of Congress To Pass The Afghan Adjustment Act, In Washington On February 14.
Krish O’Mara Wignaraja, president and CEO of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, speaks during a press conference urging members of Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act, in Washington on February 14.

Advocacy groups have been urging Congress Passing the Afghan Adjustment Act for months as a way out of a limbo in which Afghans find themselves. If passed, it would provide a direct route for Afghan parolees to lawful permanent residence, bypassing all other options including SIV and asylum.

“The Afghan Adjustment Act will create a fast track for Afghans to recognize that, based on their evacuation and incidents, they already meet humanitarian security standards,” Ivory said.

Advocates hope the latest White House request will help.

“This request is a promising sign for the prospects for the law to be passed,” Vignaraja said.“We are hopeful that Congress leaders on both sides of the aisle recognize the urgent and moral imperative to do what is right by those who fight and serve alongside us in Afghanistan.”

But Senate sources told HuffPost that several attempts to include this version of the Afghan Adjustment Act have failed because of objections from Senate Republicans.

“Given that, its future is uncertain even in the supplement,” said one employee, who requested anonymity to discuss the situation. “we will see.”


Nation World News Desk
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