News & Views

Advocacy Opportunities Related to Afghanistan

Read on to learn how to advocate for Afghan refugees.

 

USCIS must waive fees for Afghan refugees

 

In the past month, we have seen tens of thousands of Afghans—men, women, and children—risk their lives every day to make their way to safety in the United States, after risking their lives for years helping the American military. People are now scrambling to save their own lives. One of the ways they can do that is to file applications for humanitarian parole so that they can escape to safety here in the United States. A major barrier to that application must be dismantled first, however. We need USCIS to waive all fees for this critical ticket out.

Humanitarian parole, while not a legal status, does, if granted, provide an entry visa. People in dire circumstances can self-petition or relatives here in the US can petition for relatives stuck in Afghanistan.

HIAS Pennsylvania, working closely with the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association (AILA), has quickly mobilized to prepare hundreds of humanitarian parole applications on behalf of Pennsylvania residents from Afghanistan, but the barrier in the form of a fee of $575 per application has become an insurmountable roadblock for some.

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 a few weeks ago because he was a member of the former Afghan military—would need to raise $12,650 within just days, all to pay fees to a government that has said it recognizes Afghans such as these are in danger of losing the thing most precious to every human being: their life.

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.

Contact your legislators and the President directly and ask them to waive fees attached to humanitarian parole applications today. Our staff attorneys and the many private attorneys donating countless pro bono hours are standing by. Demand that USCIS waive fees for Afghans who are fleeing for their lives. We owe them at least that.

 

Tell Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act

 

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.

Contact your legislators and ask them to support the AAA.

 

Tell Congress to Waive the Sponsorship Requirement

 

For all non humanitarian legal status applications—petitions for family members, petitions for fiancés or spouses—if the petitioner has insufficient income or assets 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 provide sufficient support 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.

Contact your legislators and ask them to eliminate the requirement of an Affidavit of Support for humanitarian parole applicants.