Press Release

225 Organizations Slam USCIS Policy on Afghans Seeking Humanitarian Protections

December 14, 2021

Advocates working with Afghans seeking emergency Humanitarian Parole anticipate mass denials after USCIS announces exclusionary practices.

Two hundred twenty-five organizations have signed a letter raising concerns about the fate of thousands of Afghans who remain trapped in Afghanistan, and have applied for humanitarian protections with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. The organizations fear mass denials of applications, leaving tens of thousands of vulnerable Afghans at risk under deadly Taliban rule. The letter, led by Project ANAR (Afghan Network for Advocacy and Resources), is the second appeal organized by the group to the Biden Administration and members of Congress, and is part of a broader grassroots effort to organize protection for Afghan asylum seekers. 

“As legal service providers, advocates, and members of the Afghan diaspora, we seek not only adjudication of Afghan Humanitarian Parole applications, but the favorable use of the wide discretion that USCIS has to grant parole. Instead, USCIS has laid out a plan that will close the door to tens of thousands of Afghans seeking safety in the United States,” the letter notes.

The letter notes USCIS standards that many believe are insurmountable, including:

  1. Third party evidence naming the applicant and documenting threats or risks of serious harm, a burden of proof that is not normally part of the humanitarian process, and often impossible to fulfill given the realities on the ground in Afghanistan. 

2. USCIS has arbitrarily heightened the threat standard required for these applications, in contradiction of their own prior Humanitarian Parole Trainings and Guidelines.

3. Heightened standards produce a potential for mass denials in the absence of alternative pathways. Afghans have turned to Humanitarian Parole because other pathways are inaccessible, backlogged, and insufficient for the urgent needs produced by the Taliban takeover of the country. Advocates have long urged special programs to address the inaccessibility of existing pathways, yet no such plans have been developed by the US government.

“Advocates are concerned by USCIS Humanitarian Parole denials that rely on insurmountable evidentiary standards, and pull the rug out from under tens of thousands of pending applications with no alternative pathways for relief. USCIS has adopted an exclusionary policy toward Afghans that contradicts its own guidance,” said Laila Ayub for Project ANAR. 

A full explanation of these concerns, as well as seven clear recommendations on the issue, are detailed in the Project ANAR letter that you can read here.