Unfair Visa Process Faced by At-risk Afghans Confronted at Last

Introduction

Among the core purposes of peace education, the development of skills of political efficacy and values of civic responsibility have made it a vehicle for citizenship education. The field seeks to cultivate the capacity of citizens to persuade their governments to devise and implement policies directed toward justice and peace.  Values of civic responsibility as learning goals of peace education are intended to incline citizens to demand and propose actions that apply governmental institutions and resources to assure the fairness that comprises justice as the foundation of peace. Civil society brings citizens together to collaborate on articulating their demands and pushing elected officials to act on them.

A current injustice, leading civil society to undertake action to achieve policy change, is the delay and denial of  US visas to at-risk Afghans. Both the ACLU and a group of Senators responded to civil society with the actions presented in the two texts in this post.  (BAR, 5/27/22)

ACLU of Massachusetts files federal lawsuit seeking humanitarian parole for Afghans

(Reposted from: ACLU of Massachusetts.  May 25, 2022)

The ACLU of Massachusetts, together with law firm Mintz, today filed a new lawsuit on behalf of Afghans facing danger at the hands of the reinstalled Taliban regime, and New England-area loved ones who are petitioning to bring them to safety in the United States through a process called humanitarian parole. According to the lawsuit, the U.S. government held out the prospect that endangered Afghans could receive humanitarian parole, but, when large numbers applied, changed its standards and began delaying and denying their applications.

“This change in policy has left Afghans stranded and at risk of extreme violence or death,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “At the same time, it has devastated those who put their faith in the humanitarian parole process. The government has a responsibility to apply its laws fairly, effectively, and efficiently—especially when it deals with the cases of those who are attempting to flee from danger.”

When the United States’ 20-year occupation of Afghanistan ended in August 2021, the U.S. airlifted more than 100,000 Afghan people out of the country. But the evacuation efforts left thousands of at-risk Afghans behind—including women and those who directly assisted the United States. Tens of thousands of vulnerable Afghans sought help from the U.S. government through applications for humanitarian parole, which allows people to temporarily enter the United States for a limited period, and, once here, apply for asylum or other immigration relief if eligible.

In August and early September 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) acted with urgency to address applications for humanitarian parole. The agency began granting some applications for humanitarian parole on behalf of Afghans who feared the Taliban, recognizing that they presented “urgent humanitarian reasons” warranting a grant of humanitarian parole under then-existing standards. But as applications into USCIS increased, the agency changed course: For two months, USCIS stopped deciding Afghan humanitarian parole cases, and in November, it began to implement new standards that appear designed to ensure the denial of most applications.

“The government’s retreat from the Afghan humanitarian parole process has had tragic consequences, leaving our clients stranded and in danger,” said Adriana Lafaille, staff attorney at the ACLU of Massachusetts. “By restricting humanitarian parole standards for Afghans and by failing to adequately acknowledge or explain its decision to make that change, the government has not only violated the rules regarding administrative action, but it has also needlessly left Afghan allies at risk.”

The plaintiffs who remain in danger in Afghanistan and surrounding countries include a female judge who sentenced members of the Taliban, other women who previously rose to positions of prominence, and people who directly supported the United States in Afghanistan or worked with the U.S.-backed Afghan government, and their family members. After several months of waiting, they have received either denials or no responses to their applications. One plaintiff applied for six family members, but tragically, three of them were killed while awaiting decisions on their applications for humanitarian parole.

“Through this lawsuit, we hope to prompt necessary action by the government, including to reunite families whose loved ones were left behind after the U.S. evacuated Afghanistan last summer. Our clients remain in grave danger—some as a direct result of their visible and material support for the U.S. operations there throughout the last two decades. And the danger has only been exacerbated by our government’s flawed and delayed process,” said Mintz Member Drew DeVoogd. “Our dedicated team of attorneys looks forward to seeing this case through alongside the ACLU of Massachusetts.”

The ACLU is asking the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts to require that the plaintiffs’ applications be promptly adjudicated or re-adjudicated under the August 2021 standards for Afghan humanitarian parole.

For more information about Roe v. Mayorkas, go to: https://www.aclum.org/en/cases/roe-v-mayorkas

For more information about the ACLU of Massachusetts, go to: http://www.aclum.org

For more information about Mintz, go to: https://www.mintz.com


Senator Markey urges Biden Administration to address disparate treatment of Afghan and Ukrainian refugees

(Reposted from: Senator Ed Markey website.  May 26, 2022)

Washington (May 26, 2022) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today led his colleagues in a letter to the Biden administration raising concerns about the stark inconsistencies in the treatment of humanitarian parole applicants from Ukraine and Afghanistan. The letter points out that while applications from Ukrainians are expeditiously processed through a new and cost-free “Uniting for Ukraine” program, applications from Afghans are subject to lengthier and expensive processing. Additionally, Afghans are required to complete an in-person consular interview and provide proof that they were personally targeted for violence by the Taliban, while Ukrainians do not need to complete an interview at the consulate and only need to prove that they lived in Ukraine at the time of the Russian invasion. The lawmakers further note that they admire the U.S. response to the Ukrainian refugee crisis, but would hope that the same welcoming and accommodating approach applied to all those fleeing humanitarian crises, wherever they occur.

“The inconsistent treatment of Afghan and Ukrainian humanitarian parole applications is troubling,” wrote the Senators. “Afghans and Ukrainians have turned to humanitarian parole because other pathways out of their respective countries and to the United States, such as family reunification, are inaccessible or backlogged, and therefore inadequate in the face of immediate danger. We urge USCIS to adopt an approach to Afghan parole applications that mirrors the new treatment of Ukrainian applications, including accelerating the processing of Afghan parole applications, waiving (or refunding) application fees, and not requiring a showing of targeted violence.”

A copy of this letter can be found HERE.

In December 2021, Senator Markey, along with Congressman Seth Moulton (MA-06), led a group of lawmakers in a bicameral letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) expressing alarm about the restrictive and inconsistent processes USCIS had adopted toward Afghans who had applied for humanitarian parole to the United States.

Senator Markey was joined in today’s letter by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass).

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