US visa program has yet to review thousands of applications from Afghan allies, New York Times report found
According to a New York Times report, less than 2,000 of 43,000 applications submitted through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services humanitarian parole program have been approved, leaving thousands of allies and Afghan families in hiding.
The agency reviewing the applications, however, took in millions of dollars from the $575 filing fee attached to each application, according to the report.
The majority of applicants are allies and their families who were not evacuated as part of the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan last year. However, some of these requests have been refused. Sharif Azizi, who has worked with the United States as a combat interpreter, said his mother and siblings were told they could apply through the program as they were wanted by Taliban fighters after the group recaptured Kabul midway through the United States exit. Azizi, who lives in California, told The New York Times that her family was turned down months after they applied for the US program.
“All the certificates of congratulations that I received, all the promises that we had, it seems like a big lie”, he said.
Other U.S. allies expressed similar disappointment to the media about their families waiting long periods for approval under the program, or being denied without explanation. This has left many families abandoned in Afghanistan or neighboring countries, according to reports by The New York Times and others.
Since the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Citizenship and Immigration Services agency has seen a massive increase in applications under the program, and they say they have hired new adjudicators to help with the review process.
“Humanitarian parole is not intended to replace established refugee processing channels such as the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, which is the typical route for people outside the United States who have fled their country of origin. origin and seek protection”, the agency said in a statement.
The humanitarian parole program aims to provide an expedited process for certain individuals or groups who are at risk or in conflict areas. It was previously used in Vietnam and Iraq. Before the surge in applications from Afghanistan, about 2,000 people applied to the parole program each year, of which 500 to 700 received approval.
Activists say the standards of the parole program are too high and defeat the purpose of what is meant to be a quick process.
More than 200 representatives from various legal service providers, resettlement agencies, and university legal clinics sent a letter this week to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas asking for a more efficient process to help the tens of thousands of people in and around Afghanistan awaiting approval on their applications.
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