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Immigration Law

Afghan Evacuees in Limbo While Seeking Permanent Legal Status in the U.S.

Michelle Hackman, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 29, 2022

"The Biden administration’s calls on Congress to provide all evacuated Afghans a path to citizenship—as the government had done after similar evacuations from Vietnam and Iraq—have so far gone unheeded. Bipartisan legislation in Congress, sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) and Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) and based off the Biden administration’s proposal, would address the issue by providing evacuated Afghans a direct path to green cards pending additional security checks. The bill, known as the Afghan Adjustment Act, is modeled on a similar law passed after the Vietnam War to provide a path to citizenship for the more than 100,000 refugees from southeast Asia the U.S. airlifted after the war. Similar laws also were passed for Cubans after the 1959 communist revolution and for Iraqi Kurds after the first Iraq war. ... Some Republican senators also have objected to the mass grant of green cards because of their concerns about potentially inadequate vetting of the evacuees brought to the U.S. ... Many evacuees are meanwhile applying for asylum, a cumbersome process that requires each family to provide evidence that their lives would be in danger back in Afghanistan. “We evacuated them, and now we’re questioning whether they should qualify for asylum?” said Margaret Stock, an immigration attorney based in Anchorage, Alaska, who specializes in military issues. “The whole thing frankly doesn’t make a lot of sense.” ... Lawyers expect that most Afghans applying for asylum will eventually win their cases or find alternative routes to stay in the country. Immigration attorneys, nonprofit groups and law students across the country have formed a network to try to help as many Afghans as possible prepare their applications. Not all can expect to win their cases, lawyers say, either because of a lack of available evidence that would sufficiently prove they would be singled out for persecution in Afghanistan and some, like Asrar, will run into problems with the human-rights records of their employers. Others might find themselves barred from a green card because they gave aid, however unwillingly, to the Taliban, such as treating a Taliban fighter at a hospital or teaching his child at a local school, attorneys said. “While some members of the public think everyone from Afghanistan should get asylum, our system just doesn’t work that way,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law at Cornell Law School."