We have watched the recent horrific and heart-wrenching news and images of desperate refugees fleeing from the Taliban in Afghanistan. This painful and distressing scene is amplified because family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, some currently in the morass of the U.S. immigration process, remain in Afghanistan today. Regrettably, the U.S. immigration system has failed to protect the families of our Afghani neighbors, but there is hope.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has announced a special Humanitarian Parole for Afghani nationals. This is a discretionary program to bring those with urgent humanitarian or significant public benefits reasons to the United States. Humanitarian parole can reunite families, provide a refuge for others, and bring hope in this dark time.
The Impact of Humanitarian Parole
One example of those who can benefit from this new program is Samir of Tarrant County. He served as a combat interpreter for U.S. forces in his native Afghanistan. He was able to immigrate to the U.S. through a path designated for those who were employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Samir later sought to reunite with his wife Fatima and their newborn baby through the standard family immigration system. The State Department received the family’s case in January 2020. As Samir watched the devastating events unfold from the safety of the U.S., his wife and baby were fighting to flee along with thousands of other Afghanis as their country abruptly descended into chaos.
Approximately 5,800 U.S. troops secured the Kabul airport evacuating American citizens and Afghanis desperate to leave. Since Fatima and their now two-year-old son were already in the immigrant visa process, the State Department sent them an “access pass” and instructions of where and how to enter the airport for a “U.S. government provided flight.” When they arrived on the morning of August 19th, they could not approach the entrance because of the overwhelmingly large crowd.
With baby in tow, Fatima sought another entrance but was blocked by Taliban soldiers who would not allow her passage. Fearful, she returned home. The following morning, she was able to reach the entrance and with the State Department access pass, enter the airport. For the next three days, she and her two-year-old son lived in the Kabul airport, but instead of boarding a plane to Texas, they were told to leave the airport because they had not been issued a visa previously. She and her baby, the family of a combat interpreter and our fellow Texan, remain in Afghanistan at the whim of the Taliban. This happened after being invited to participate in airlift processing is just the twisting of the dagger.
Samir fled fearing harm in his home country and came to Texas a stranger, but he is now our neighbor. Yet Fatima and their son are not here because our standard immigration system failed them. This new humanitarian parole program can rectify this situation.
How To Apply for Humanitarian Parole
USCIS considers requests for humanitarian parole on a case-by-case basis. As mentioned above, an applicant must have an urgent humanitarian or significant public benefit reason to come to the US for a temporary period of time. The application is made by submitting Form I-131 with USCIS with documentation proving the urgent reason the applicant seeks permission to enter the US.
The application should include a statement explaining the urgency to come to the US and the urgent humanitarian circumstances. Also, there must be a financial sponsor to ensure that the person will have financial support upon arrival to the US. If the I-131 application is approved, USCIS will send confirmation of the decision and instructions to file a DS-160 visa application. Once a background check has been successfully completed and the application finally approved, the person would then receive a travel document to enter the US. This will allow the person to make travel arrangements to come to the US.
The final decision about parole will be made by the inspecting officer of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on arrival in the US at one of the ports of entry. The travel documents will be inspected and if acceptable, the CBP officer will issue the person an I-94 Arrival/Departure record. This is proof of legal entry and parole status while in the US. It allows the person to apply for employment authorization and to reside in the US lawfully.
The parole document will expire. The person would need to file to renew the parole, known as “re-parole,” by filing a new I-131 form and a new financial sponsorship form (Form I-134). The person must also provide updated documentation showing the conditions that require and justify re-parole. The renewal application should be filed 90 days or so prior to the expiration of the parole.
Another benefit is for people who are waiting for a green card through US citizen or permanent resident relatives. Once the visa becomes available to them under the quotas, if they have maintained their paroles, they can then file to adjust status to permanent resident here in the US. If the person enters on parole and believes they qualify for political asylum, they can also pursue that application.
Do You or a Loved One Need Advice from an Experienced Immigration Attorney?
As attorneys, we seek to reunite families and help those in need like Samir and Fatima and the many others who have been impacted by the international policy changes in Afghanistan. If you or someone that you know has a connection to Afghanistan, please contact us for a consultation to discuss whether humanitarian parole might be an option. Hope is not lost and we can help.
 Names have been changed to protect from reprisals