Afghans in the U.S. Can Now Apply for Temporary Protection

TThe Biden Administration has now granted temporary protected status (TPS) to Afghans living in the U.S. This designation would allow them to be deported for up to 18 months and grant them work permits, as well as travel authorization.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, 72,500 Afghans who are already living in the U.S. may be eligible for TPS. This won’t affect Afghans trying to access the U.S. who remain abroad, and doesn’t guarantee permanent stay in the U.S. for those who are already here.

“[TPS is] yet another short term band-aid for a population that needs and, frankly, deserves some kind of protection,” says Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), a refugee resettlement organization. “Our nation made a promise that we would safeguard them in return for their service and sacrifice, we can’t put an expiration date on that promise. And we can’t leave them to be subject to the whims of future administrations.”

After the U.S. pulled out of Afghanistan in August 2021 it started the evacuation of many thousands of Afghans. In the end, almost 80,000 people were evacuated. They are allowed to return to the U.S. with humanitarian parole. DHS announced that it will begin offering TPS for Afghans in March 16th, but first it had to publish the announcement in the Federal Register. This publication was made public on Friday and opened the doors to TPS for Afghans.

TPS doesn’t offer the same benefits that refugee status would, including a permanent path to residency in the U.S. But it may offer a temporary solution to a looming crisis: Afghans’ humanitarian parole status is only good for two years. For them to be eligible for citizenship it would require Congress action to change their humanitarian parole status. Without Congress’s intervention, most Afghans would be forced to file asylum claims. They will then find themselves in the middle of the cumbersome immigration court system, with over 1.6 million cases backlogged as of January. Afghans are able to request TPS to extend their stay and allow them to pursue asylum.

Continue reading:Tens of Thousands of Afghans Who Fled The Taliban Are Now Marooned in America’s Broken Immigration Bureaucracy

TPS protections can only be used for a limited time, as indicated by the title. TPS protects Afghans living in the U.S. after March 15. They will not be deported for up to 18 months. It is at DHS’s discretion to decide what countries to add to the TPS eligibility list—Afghanistan joins 13 other countries including Ukraine, South Sudan, and Haiti— and when or whether to let benefits expire. DHS may have extended TPS protections over decades in some instances, renewing it each year as the expiration date approaches. Advocates worry that this could lead to Afghans being trapped.

“It’s a temporary status, so there’s no security for people,” says Robyn Barnard, senior policy council of refugee protection at Human Rights First, an advocacy and research organization. “To be living constantly in these 18-month windows is really not fair and sustainable.”

‘We are going through trauma’

Humaira Rasuli is a human rights lawyer from Afghanistan and a Afghan woman living in Virginia. She fled the country after the U.S. withdrawal. In addition to receiving humanitarian parole, she was also granted a Special Immigrant visa, which is available for Afghan nationals who work with American forces. She can now apply for citizenship.

But there are still thousands of others in the U.S. who haven’t received the same protections, she says, and thousands more abroad who are in danger—including members of her family. “For those of us that are out of the country… we have some guilty feelings,” she says. “We are among few that are protected and safe, and the majority of Afghan people, especially women, are not safe.”

Rasuli says she’s found a welcoming home in Virginia, but her parents and sisters remain behind in Afghanistan. Their attempts to join her in the U.S. have so far failed, and the new ability for Afghans in the U.S. to apply for TPS doesn’t aid those who are left in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan or who have fled to other countries and submitted applications for entry to the U.S. under humanitarian parole. “All of the time we are going through trauma, one trauma after another,” Rasuli says. “You are in constant fear of something happening. Believe me, if my parents don’t write me in a day, I already feel that they are kidnapped, or they are harmed.”

U.S. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency responsible for processing humanitarian parole applications from Afghans living abroad, has been overwhelmed by hundreds of thousands of requests. Congress has yet to approve additional permanent protections of Afghans. Afghans who have been granted humanitarian parole by the U.S. would be allowed to apply for permanent residency under The Afghan Adjustment Act. The bill has bipartisan support, but advocates’ most recent effort to attach it to a new $40 billion aid package for Ukraine failed.

TPS is the current temporary solution. “While TPS is a welcome safety net, it doesn’t mean we should keep kicking the can down the road,” says Vignarajah of LIRS. Every time Congress “fails to act on this, is another extension of the anxiety our new Afghan neighbors face.”

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