Immense Problems Hampering U.S. Efforts To Resettle Afghans   

Since the U.S. evacuation of Afghanistan on  August 31, 2021, the U.S. has been engaged in the complicated task of resettling an anticipated 65,000 to 100,000 Afghans in the U.S. Now the U.S. Government is admitting that its initial goal of completing these resettlements by the end of this year cannot be achieved and that it will take through March 2022 if not longer. [1]

 Locations of Afghans Evacuated by U.S.

The only somewhat comprehensive accounting of where these people are today that this blogger has been able to find is a Wall Street Journal article vaguely describing Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s October 8 written responses to written questions from Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Here are those approximate numbers:

  • During August 2021, 124,000 people were evacuated from that country by the U.S., 85% or 105,400 of whom were Afghans.
  • Approximately 53,000 of these Afghan  evacuees were living at eight U.S. military bases in this country; 34%  were male adults, 22% were female adults and 44% were children.
  • Other Afghan evacuees (perhaps 6,000 to 10,000) were at U.S. military installations in Germany, Spain, Italy and Kosovo.
  • Another 6,000 have been resettled in the U.S.
  • Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates have provided temporary space for screening and vetting by Departments of Defense and State and other federal agencies..

U.S. Immigration Status of Afghan Evacuees.

  1. Humanitarian Parole

Most Afghan evacuees arrive in the U.S. as humanitarian parolees with eligibility to apply for work authorization. Such permits are granted on a case-by-case basis permitting them to stay for two years after appropriate screening and vetting and subject to medical screening and vaccination and reporting requirements. Failure to meet these conditions may be cause for denial of work authorization and potentially termination of the parole and initiation of detention and removal.

Moreover, “humanitarian parolees lack a path to legal U.S. residency and the benefits and services offered to traditional refugees, according to U.S. officials and aid groups working closely with the government.” Instead, “Afghan parolees who have arrived at U.S. military bases will be eligible for an ad hoc State Department program that provides limited assistance for up to 90 days, including a one-time $1,250 stipend. But they will not have the full range of medical, counseling and resettlement services available to immigrants who arrive through the U.S. refugee program.”

  1. Afghan Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs)

Some evacuees may qualify for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) by meeting the following requirements:

  • “Employment in Afghanistan for at least one year between October 7, 2001, and December 31, 2023, by or on behalf of the U.S. government or by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), or a successor mission in a capacity that required the applicant to serve as an interpreter or translator for U.S. military personnel while traveling off-base with U.S. military personnel stationed at ISAF or to perform activities for U.S. military personnel stationed at ISAF; “and
  • “Have experienced or be experiencing an ongoing threat as a consequence of their employment.”

On October 21, U.S. Senators Inhofe (R-Okla.), Risch (R-Idaho) and Portman (R-Ohio) sent a letter requesting a joint review and audit of the SIV program to the inspectors general of the Departments of State, Defense and Homeland Security and the U.S. Agency for international Development. These Senators contend that in the “chaotic and haphazard U.S. withdrawal” from Afghanistan  “thousands of SIV applicants were shamefully left behind,[putting them] at great risk, vulnerable to retaliation from the Taliban due to their association with the [U.S.].”

The same day (October 21), Senator Inhofe stated that a classified briefing on security in Afghanistan confirmed that after the U.S. withdrawal the U.S. “is now less safe” and that the “Taliban can’t—and won’t –do anything to prevent al-Qaeda from training or launching attacks from Afghanistan” and in fact will only “enable al-Qaeda.” These issues will be probed in an upcoming hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

  1. Priority 2 (P-2) Designations

Other evacuees may be eligible for Priority 2 (P-2) designation  granting U.S. Refugee Admissions Program access for Afghans and their eligible family members by satisfying on of the following conditions;

  • “Afghans who do not meet the minimum time-in-service for a SIV but who work or worked as employees of contractors, locally-employed staff, interpreters/translators for the U.S. government, U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOXRX-A), International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), or Resolute Support;”
  • “Afghans who work or worked for a U.S. government-funded program or project in Afghanistan supported through a U.S. government grant or cooperative agreement;” or
  • “Afghans who are or were employed in Afghanistan by a U.S.-based media organization or non-governmental organization.”
  1. Priority 1 (P-1) Designations

Afghans also could be eligible for “the Priority (P-1) program by virtue of their circumstances and apparent need for resettlement who are referred to the P-1 program . . .  by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a U.S. embassy, or a designated NGO.”

  1. Asylum Applicants

Another option for the parolees is to apply for asylum on proof of “persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” Such a claim realistically requires the services of a U.S. attorney knowledgeable about asylum law and procedures, preferably a pro bono attorney who serves without a fee. The current horrible backlog in immigration courts makes this a very challenging undertaking.

  1. Green Card Proposal

On September 7, President Biden submitted to Congress a request for authorization of green cards for Afghan s after a year in the U.S. This was part of a request for $6.4 billion for the Afghan resettlement effort.

Other Practical Problems

Another problem causing delays is an outbreak of measles in the Afghan evacuees that prompted military base officials to carry out a broad vaccination effort against measles, Covid-19 and polio.

Yet another problem causing delays in Afghan resettlement is the current U.S. housing shortage coupled with soaring rents and the resulting reluctance of landlords to take on potential tenants with no existing income or credit scores. Moreover, initially the Afghans had to live within a hundred miles of a resettlement agency, the number of which shrunk as a result of the Trump Administration reducing the number of refugees the us. would accept for resettlement.

Resettling them in places that have sizable existing Afghan communities would make a lot of sense except that many of those places like California and northern Virginia are particularly expensive.

There also have been other practical problems. Some of the living facilities on U.S. military bases at least initially were inadequate in many ways, and warmer clothing for the Afghans was in short supply. In addition, travel for the Afghans from military bases to their final destinations was organized by the International Organization for Migration, a U.N. agency that has been understaffed in the U.S.

Conclusion

The issues presented by resettlement of Afghan evacuees are very complex, and this blogger would greatly appreciate comments correcting or amplifying this post’s discussion.

====================

 

[1] U.S. Dep’t Homeland Security, Fact Sheet on Operation Allies Welcome; Friedman, U.S. Housing Market Needs 5.5 Million More Units, Says New report, W.S.J. (June 16, 2021); Parti & Hackman, Biden Administration Proposes Asylum Overhaul to Reduce Backlog, Speed Deportations, W.S.J. (Aug. 18, 2021); Hackman, U.S. Refugee Organizations Race to Prepare for Influx of Afghans, W.S.J. (Aug. 31, 2021); Hackman & Hughes, Biden Administration Seeks New Law to Ease Afghan Refugees‘ Path to Green Cards, W.S.J. (Sept. 8, 2021); U.S. Resettlement of Refugees and Recent Afghan Evacuees, dwkcommentaries.con (Sept. 8, 2021); McBride & iddiqui, U.S. Suspends Flights of Afghans After Four Test Positive for Measles, W.S. J. (Sept. 10, 2021); Parker, Soaring Rents Makes It a Very Good time to Own an Apartment  Building, W. S. J. (Sept. 14, 2021);  Hackman, Afghan Refugees in the U.S.: How They’re Vetted, Where They’re Going and How to Help, W.S.J. (Sept. 15, 2021); Kesling,  A U.S. Military Base  Needs to Make 13,000 Afghan Evacuees Feel at Home, W.S.J. (Oct. 1, 2021); George & Mehrdad, Routes out of Afghanistan dwindle as Pakistan cancels flights, Wash. Post (Oct. 14, 2021); Kesling & Hackman, U.S. Afghan Resettlements Slowed by Housing  Shortage, Old Technology, W.S.J. (Oct. 17, 2021); Youssef, Almost Half of Afghan Evacuees at U.S.Bases Are Children, Pentagon Says, W.S.J. (Oct. 20, 2021); Sen. Inhofe Press Release, Inhofe, Risch, Portman request Investigation of SIV Program Shortcomings Amid Afghanistan Withdrawal (Oct. 21, 2021); Sen. Inhofe Press Release, Inhofe Statement on Afghanistan Security Briefing (Oct. 21, 2021).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published by

dwkcommentaries

As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

One thought on “Immense Problems Hampering U.S. Efforts To Resettle Afghans   ”

Leave a Reply