Innovation Law Lab is honored to have joined over 120 organizations, led by the Afghan Network for Advocacy and Resources (Project ANAR), in calling on the Biden Administration to address the enormous backlog of Humanitarian Parole applications. We are working to support nationwide grassroots efforts to assist Afghans attempting to reach safety in the United States and we share our partner organizations’ concern about USCIS freezing the processing of these applications.
The letter to the Biden Administration focuses on five key demands:
Congressional Hearing and Oversight
New Pathway to Relief
RE: Concerns Regarding Backlog and Deficient Processing of Humanitarian Parole Applications for Afghan Nationals
Dear President Biden, Vice President Harris, Secretaries Mayorkas and Blinken, Director Jaddou Director Rice, Senator Padilla and Rep. Lofgren:
We are writing to you on behalf of the Afghan Network for Advocacy and Resources (Project ANAR), an Afghan American led collective that has organized emergency legal support in response to the crisis in Afghanistan. Together with the undersigned legal services providers, resettlement agencies, law firms, and law school clinics working on humanitarian parole applications, and community organizations providing assistance to Afghans, we are extremely concerned about the growing backlog of unadjudicated Humanitarian Parole applications from Afghans.
Over the course of the last eight weeks, Project ANAR has connected with nearly 9,000 Afghans to coordinate volunteer legal assistance in order to help them apply for Humanitarian Parole to the United States. With the help of many partners, we have raised over $350,000 to help pay the USCIS $575 filing fee per application. As part of the filing process, we have connected hundreds of American sponsors to Afghans in urgent danger of persecution. Additionally, one of our key partners, Pars Equality Center has paired nearly 16,000 Afghans with hundreds of legal volunteers, and connected many of them with volunteer sponsors as well.
We are far from alone. An unprecedented network of legal and community groups — many of whom have signed onto this letter — have quickly stepped up to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Together, we are in the process of submitting at least 30,000 Humanitarian Parole applications to USCIS. We estimate USCIS will collect at least $17,250,000 in application fees from our collective efforts.
Despite millions of taxpayer dollars and a clear demand from the American people to address the critical needs of Afghans, it is our understanding that USCIS has represented that it has not granted any Humanitarian Parole applications to Afghans since August 31, 2021. The daily accounts of Afghans facing life and death situations directly linked to the American troop withdrawal makes this backlog extremely concerning.
We are writing to request the following from your respective offices:
- Public Transparency: Publish a full accounting of exactly how many Humanitarian Parole applications USCIS has received, the amount of fees collected, the number of subsequent applications granted, the number of fee waiver requests submitted and approved, and the timeline for resolving pending adjudications. Additionally, update the USCIS policy manual to clarify how fee waivers are being processed and to update the case process flow to account for the closure of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
- Congressional Hearing and Oversight: Host a public hearing within the next 30 days where officials from the Departments of Homeland Security and State brief Members of Congress about the backlog of Afghan humanitarian parole applications, the administrative challenges leading to the backlog, and what steps are being taken to address both.
- Community Coordination: Host a biweekly community update call with officials from both the Departments of Homeland Security and State until the backlog is cleared.
- Safe Passage: Ensure safe passage for Afghans who remain in Afghanistan and those in third countries as they seek safe transportation to the United States. USCIS should issue conditional approvals for any person still in Afghanistan when initial processing of Humanitarian Parole petitions has been completed to facilitate the individual or family’s travel out of Afghanistan to a third country to complete processing.
- New Pathway to Relief: The U.S. government’s Humanitarian Parole program was not established to respond to a large-scale humanitarian crisis impacting many thousands of people in a short window of time. We urge your offices to create a categorical parole program specifically for Afghans.
We urge your offices to act swiftly in working to shed light on the administrative backlog in reviewing and granting Humanitarian Parole applications from Afghans. If you have any questions, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Afghan Network for Advocacy and Resources (Project ANAR)