The Afghan Asylum Initiative
Collaborative. Local. Faith-based
The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban in August 2021 has prompted a refugee crisis. UNHCR reports that more than 550,000 Afghans have been displaced since January due to Taliban advances. Those most at risk include women leaders and activists, human rights workers, journalists, and tens of thousands of individuals who have assisted U.S. efforts in the country and are marked by their connection to the U.S. military. In the capital of Kabul, the Taliban is reportedly going door-to-door, targeting those with close ties to the U.S.
Initially, it appeared that potentially hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees who had assisted the U.S. military effort would be eligible to come to the U.S. under either the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program or a broader Priority-2 (P2) refugee status that was announced on August 2. However, both processes take years to complete and, in many cases, require individuals to escape on their own to a third country before applying. In addition, neither status was available to many groups who faced the most risk, including Afghan women and girls, human rights workers, and journalists.
Due to the inadequacy of the SIV and P-2 programs in the context of an emergency evacuation, on August 23 the administration announced it would be using its humanitarian parole authority to process in evacuated Afghans who do not already have visas.
What is Humanitarian parole?
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, parole is a tool that allows certain individuals to enter and stay in the U.S. without a visa. Parole is granted either for “urgent humanitarian reasons” or because the entrance of an individual is determined to be a “significant public benefit” to the U.S. While visa processes can take years or decades, the parole process may take days or even just hours to complete.
How is parole currently being used to evacuate Afghans?
Under Operation Allies Refuge, the Biden administration reportedly intends to use parole to evacuate up to 50,000 Afghans who may otherwise be eligible for either refugee or SIV status but have not yet completed their visa processing. As of August 26, it is not yet clear how many of these have already been evacuated. The administration is planning to end the evacuation effort by August 31 and is currently evacuating almost exclusively U.S. citizens. Under the current parole process, Afghans undergo rapid processing at Hamid Karzai airport in Kabul before being taken to military bases in third countries, including Qatar, Bahrain, Germany, Kuwait, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates. Afghans who are in the late stages of the SIV process and have already gone through multiple rounds of security screening are provided with quick medical screenings and then flown to the U.S., where they are paroled in.
How will the Afghan Asylum Initiative Assist the Parolees?
Parole temporarily shields individuals from deportation and — in some cases — allows them to apply for work authorization. Parole is separate from the visa admissions process, and it does not automatically confer immigration status or public benefits. In general, parolees must apply for more permanent immigration status to remain in the U.S. for longer than a short period.