Thousands Of Afghans Seek Temporary US Entry, Few Approved

LOWELL, Mass. (AP) — More than 28,000 Afghans have applied for temporary admission into the U.S. for humanitarian reasons since shortly before the Taliban recaptured Afghanistan and sparked a chaotic U.S. withdrawal, but only about 100 of them have been approved, according to federal officials.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has struggled to keep up with the surge in applicants to a little-used program known as humanitarian parole but promises it’s ramping up staff to address the growing backlog.

Afghan families in the U.S. and the immigrant groups supporting them say the slow pace of approvals threatens the safety of their loved ones, who face an uncertain future under the hard-line Islamic government because of their ties to the West.

“We’re worried for their lives,” says Safi, a Massachusetts resident whose family is sponsoring 21 relatives seeking humanitarian parole. “Sometimes, I think there will be a day when I wake up and receive a call saying that they’re no more.”

The 38-year-old U.S. permanent resident, who asked that her last name not be used for fear of retribution against her relatives, is hoping to bring over her sister, her uncle and their families. She says the families have been in hiding and their house was destroyed in a recent bombing because her uncle had been a prominent local official before the Taliban took over.

The slow pace of approvals is frustrating because families have already paid hundreds if not thousands of dollars in processing fees, says Chiara St. Pierre, an attorney at the International Institute of New England in Lowell, Massachusetts, a refugee resettlement agency assisting Safi’s family.

Each parole application comes with a $575 filing charge, meaning USCIS, which is primarily fee-funded, is sitting on some $11.5 million from Afghans in the last few months alone, she and other advocates complain.

By Philip Marcelo for THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
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