News & Views

Advocate for Afghan Refugees

While the US government successfully evacuated and processed thousands of Afghans for resettlement who were displaced because of US involvement in Afghanistan, there are thousands of separated families who remain at risk and in danger as a direct result of our country’s actions. There is a great deal more that the US government needs to and can do to assist this population.

Find out what’s happening now!

Click here for a call/letter script!


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USCIS must waive fees for Afghan refugees

 

What’s Happening?

While 70,000 Afghans, many of whom risked their lives to help the American military, were safely evacuated to the US in August, 2021, in the chaos of the evacuation, thousands of family members were separated. HIAS Pennsylvania has resettled 110 Afghans since September, 2021 and these include a family whose two-year-old got left behind, three young teenagers who got separated from their parents, two husbands who were separated from their pregnant wives and children, a wife and her children were separated from her husband and the children’s father and on and on. These left behind family members are being threatened, assaulted and starved by the Taliban and are in danger every minute of every day.

Despite this, the US has so far refused to create any kind of emergency process to get these people out of Afghanistan. There are three potential legal pathways: obtaining refugee status, seeking asylum or obtaining humanitarian parole. The first pathway takes several years as well as a harrowing escape from Afghanistan potentially without a passport to a third country. The second pathway can only occur from inside the U.S. and therefore is not something available to Afghans who remain in Afghanistan. The last pathway, seeking humanitarian parole, is therefore the only option open to Afghans still in Afghanistan. However, a major barrier to that application must be dismantled first. We need USCIS to waive all fees for this critical ticket out.

USCIS currently charges $575 per person to anyone seeking that status. This is an outrageous demand for someone whose country and economy has collapsed and which has collapsed precisely because of US actions. It’s also outrageous given the purpose behind the humanitarian parole petition – to provide a visa to someone who is in danger. There is nothing in the law that says that it is meant to only help wealthy people who are in danger and yet, the only way to get that fee waived is to file additional paperwork that slows down the consideration of the petition.

Our Afghan families are newly arrived themselves and are doing their best to settle into life in the United States, no easy feat at the best of times. Worrying about the safety of family members while trying to gather the fees necessary to save countless family members has been a huge source of anxiety. Imagine, for just one family with 22 relatives—one of whom was executed by the Taliban in the early Fall because he was a member of the former Afghan military—would need to raise $12,650 to pay fees before a petition will even be reviewed!

This is not the time to maintain barriers to access in the form of fees. We are therefore demanding, given the current situation that was created by our government, that USCIS immediately waive these fees. This is one piece of unnecessary red tape that would ease the burden.

 

Call/Letter Script

My name is ___________ and I live at ______________ and I vote. I am calling to demand that you: 1) publicly acknowledge that Afghan separated families must be re-united as soon as possible and 2) work with the President and USCIS to ensure that they waive all fees for humanitarian parole. Charging fees for humanitarian-based immigration applications is outrageous and inconsistent with the intentions behind our refugee and asylum laws. The United States cannot only provide humanitarian remedies to the wealthy and still be in good standing with its international partners. Failure to do this small thing will have large impacts across the world as charges that the US abandons its allies get louder and as Afghans that have been resettled here are forced to begin their new lives without their families.

Note: For this script, it would be more effective if you were able to add any kind of personal story—either about your own or your family’s immigration experience if there was humanitarian need, or about a loved one, a colleague, a neighbor or a friend. If you have no personal immigration stories you can add information about why you think it is important to make sure that there is a remedy for all, without regard to fees.

Contact your legislators and the President directly and ask them to waive fees attached to humanitarian parole applications today. Demand that USCIS waive fees for Afghans who are fleeing for their lives. We owe them at least that.

 

Download Call/Letter script for: USCIS MUST WAIVE FEES FOR AFGHAN REFUGEES

 


Tell Congress to Waive the Sponsorship Requirement

 

What’s Happening?

As mentioned above, humanitarian parole is the only way that Afghans who remain in Afghanistan can get legal permission to enter the US and seek asylum. However, in addition to the filing fee, discussed above, if the petitioner has insufficient income or assets as is required by the federal government, he or she must find someone to file an Affidavit of Support. The Affidavit can be signed by any person—relative or non-relative—and can even be signed by an institution such as a mosque, church or a synagogue. The Affiant, or the person who signs it, is swearing in the Affidavit that he, she or the institution will ensure that the humanitarian parole applicant will not become a public charge, i.e. will receive sufficient support from the Affiant so that the applicant will not need to access any public benefits.

Even in normal circumstances, this requirement is onerous and nonsensical. There is plenty of data that shows that immigrants, whether they do ultimately use public benefits for a period of time or don’t, end up paying more than they ever use in tax dollars. And what immigrants bring to our country, even beyond the benefits they contribute to our economy, is far richer than anything that they might use. In the current circumstance, where Afghans were forced to flee at a moment’s notice because of the actions of our own government, it is even more egregious to require that they swear or find someone to swear on their behalf that their loved ones left behind in Afghanistan will not become a public charge. This is a barrier that is preventing several thousands of people from proceeding with humanitarian parole applications on behalf of people in immediate danger. Congress can and should eliminate that requirement.

Call/Letter Script

My name is ___________ and I live at ______________ and I vote. I am calling to demand that you: 1) publicly acknowledge that Afghan separated families must be re-united as soon as possible and 2) work with the President and USCIS to ensure that they eliminate the public charge requirements for humanitarian parole. Expecting humanitarian-based applicants to support themselves is outrageous and inconsistent with the intentions behind our refugee and asylum laws. The United States cannot only provide humanitarian remedies to the wealthy and still be in good standing with its international partners. Failure to do this small thing will have large impacts across the world as charges that the US abandons its allies get louder and as Afghans that have been resettled here are forced to begin their new lives without their families. We have never required those seeking refugee status to prove that they will not become a public charge. Those seeking humanitarian parole are doing so because they are forced to flee, like refugees, and their lives are in danger just like a refugees are. There is no justification for requiring humanitarian parole applicants to prove that they will not become a public charge if their petitions are granted.

To this script, it would be more effective if you were able to add any kind of personal story – either about your own or your family’s immigration experience if there was humanitarian need, or about a loved one, a colleague, a neighbor, or a friend. If you have no personal immigration stories you can add information about why you think it is important to make sure that there is a remedy for all, without regard to they can prove that once they arrive here, they will not need public assistance.

Contact your legislators and the President directly and ask them to eliminate the requirement that Afghans seeking humanitarian parole prove that they will not become a public charge.

 

Download Call/Letter script for: TELL CONGRESS TO WAIVE THE SPONSORSHIP REQUIREMENT

 


Tell Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act (AAA)

 

What’s Happening?

The AAA would allow Afghans who were paroled into the U.S. to apply for legal permanent residency one year after their entry. Refugees, Asylees and other humanitarian immigrants are permitted to apply for legal permanent residency one year after they obtain that status. For Afghans, who had to evacuate quickly and chaotically, forcing them to wait a full year after they obtain asylum (since there wasn’t time for most of them to obtain refugee status before they had to flee) will mean that they would have to wait many, many years to be able to obtain permanent residency. This only forces them to continue to need to apply for work authorization—for a fee—and limits their ability to petition for family members who remain in danger in Afghanistan. It also further delays their ability to move forward with naturalization since that cannot happen until five years after they become permanent residents.

Call/Letter Script

My name is ___________ and I live at ______________ and I vote. I am calling to demand that you: vote in favor of the Afghan Adjustment Act. This Act will ensure that Afghans who were forced to evacuate as a direct result of American actions in Afghanistan, are able to obtain adjust their legal status and obtain permanent residency immediately upon receipt of asylum. There is no reason to force them to wait a year and doing so only makes things unnecessarily more difficult and burdensome for them and the non-profit agencies that are resettling them and assisting them with their legal needs. Forcing them to wait and then file additional legal petitions is only costing the American government a great deal more as they must pay workers to review these petitions and provide funding to support legal representatives to help Afghans navigate our broken immigration system. This is a complete waste of taxpayer doctors as well as an insult to our Afghan allies who sacrificed everything to help us. There is no justification for forcing them to wait a year to receive permanent residency.

To this script, it would be more effective if you were able to add any kind of personal story – either about your own or your family’s immigration experience if there was humanitarian need, or about a loved one, a colleague, a neighbor, or a friend. If you know of any challenges faced because of immigration delays and nonsensical multiple steps such as needing to file for adjustment even though filing for, and receiving, asylum status has already occurred, it would be good to add your story here. If you have no personal immigration stories you can add information about why you think it is important to support a stream-lined process, without additional waits, processing and hurdles for our Afghan allies.

Contact your legislators and ask them to support the Afghan Adjustment Act today!

 

Download Call/Letter script for: TELL CONGRESS TO PASS THE AFGHAN ADJUSTMENT ACT (AAA)

 

Updated on 4/21/2022.
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Today's Speed Advocacy: Afghanistan Facebook Live event has been postponed due to a worldwide Facebook outage. We will update you as soon as possible about rescheduling the event.