By Kathreen Harrison
From U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as of August 30.
Information for Afghan Nationals on Parole Into the United States https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/humanitarian-parole/information-for-afghan-nationals-on-parole-into-the-united-states Individuals who are outside of the United States may request parole into the United States based on urgent humanitarian or significant public benefit reasons for a temporary period, on a case-by-case basis. If USCIS authorizes parole, we will specify its duration. While parole allows for lawful presence in the United States, the parolee technically remains an applicant for admission. Parole does not confer immigration status and does not provide a path to permanent residency or the ability to obtain lawful immigration status. However, a parolee may be able to obtain lawful status in the United States through other means.The U.S. government is making every effort to assist individuals who have been granted parole into the United States. Due to quickly changing circumstances in the region and the closure of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, beneficiaries may experience delays in processing their cases and may need to arrange travel to a U.S. embassy outside of Afghanistan to continue processing their parole request.
During the weeks since Kabul, Afghanistan, fell to the Taliban, many Mainers have reached out to members of the local Afghan community, which numbers about 500 people, asking how they can help. Representatives of the community, who spoke with Amjambo Africa, expressed gratitude for the offers of help, fear for loved ones in Afghanistan or in flight from the country, and sorrow for their homeland, which has suffered decades of violence and turbulence.
The United Nations estimates the population of Afghanistan at 38 million people. The major ethnic groups are Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras. Pashto and Dari are the nation’s two official languages. Most of the population lives in rural areas. Afghanistan suffers from high levels of poverty and illiteracy.
For those wishing to help:
• American citizens are needed to serve as sponsors for the Afghan siblings, parents, and friends of Afghan families living in Maine. Sponsorship does not include housing or responsibility for day to day activities. Arrivals will join families already living in Maine. For more information, contact Nasir at [email protected]
• Financial donations are needed to help Afghan families navigate the immigration process for loved ones and to assist any refugee families that arrive in Maine. Donations are being accepted by Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition on behalf of the Afghan Community of Maine. Visit maineimmigrantrights.org, click “Donate,” and select “Dedicate my donation” on the short donation form. Write “Afghan Community” in the message box.
• Help with documents is needed for Afghan people who are trying to get to safety. Volunteers who speak and write Pashto and/or Dari are needed, as are lawyers who can help with documents on a pro bono basis. Others who are simply willing to lend a hand with documents are also asked to volunteer their assistance. For more information, contact Nasir at [email protected]
• Contact Maine’s congressional delegation and urge them to ease the requirement that a foreigner sign documents for SIV, P1, and P2 forms since the fingerprints and biometric data of the applicants are already in the U.S. database. The unworkable requirement is blocking people from getting to safety.
As of June 18 – before the Taliban re-took control of the country – more than 3.5 million Afghans had been forced to flee their homes and communities due to insecurity and violence, and there were already 2.6 million registered Afghan refugees. More than half a million people have been internally displaced since the beginning of 2021. Others are trying to flee the country to escape anticipated retribution against those who aided the U.S., have been outspoken against the Taliban, or are perceived to be allied with the West. The Taliban have a well-documented history of punishing their enemies with stoning, beatings, amputation, and death. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is concerned about the potential for human rights violations against civilians, including women and girls, and is calling on countries that neighbor Afghanistan to keep their borders open. Some 80% of nearly a quarter million Afghans who have fled their homes since the end of May are women and children.
The Biden administration is being pressured by humanitarian organizations, religious organizations, Afghan Americans, and others to admit a large number of Afghan refugees, similar to what happened after the end of World War II and later after the fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War. However, anti-immigrant sentiment is strong in the U.S., and most experts are not optimistic that the U.S. will be as helpful now as in the past. This is despite two decades of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. Iran. Pakistan, and Turkey already host millions of Afghan refugees. However, Turkey is now closing its borders.
Those who have been evacuated from Afghanistan by the U.S. generally are taken to Qatar, Kuwait, or Uganda, where they await a decision on where they will be sent next. Mainers meeting family members sent to the U.S. must travel to Dulles Airport in Virginia to pick them up.
The first Afghan refugees in Maine arrived in the early 1980s, after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. Subsequent waves of refugees came after fleeing the Taliban. Over the years, some arrived on Special Immigrant Visas (SIV), available for some who had worked for the U.S. government or the military. The U.S. ended evacuation efforts on August 31.
The past weeks have been exhausting for Maine’s Afghans, as they field desperate pleas for help from people in Afghanistan, mourn losses, and organize in order to be able to help as many people as possible. They ask the public to respect their need for privacy during this difficult time.
ILAP Assistance: Maine families with loved ones in Afghanistan can email ILAP at [email protected] (with “Afghanistan” in the subject line) or call (207) 699-4415 (be sure to mention Afghanistan if you leave a message) for a consultation with an attorney.