Here is a damning portrait of incompetence in the USCIS regarding help to Afghans fleeing to the U.S. This posting, quoting the report, dives into more detail of immigration operations than usual. The author is the American Immigration Council. Title: “Agency Failures Make Obtaining Humanitarian Parole Almost Impossible for Afghans.”
USCIS records show how the agency’s response to the high volume of humanitarian parole applications contributed to the massive delays faced by Afghans.
In July 2021, the Biden administration announced that the United States’ military mission in Afghanistan would conclude in August of that year. During those final days of U.S. military presence, the Taliban rapidly gained control of Afghanistan, killing civilians in their path and prompting many Afghans to flee their homes for safety. As the U.S. military departed the country, many Afghans who were left behind in danger—as well as their families and friends in the United States—turned to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) humanitarian parole process for safe passage. For Afghan nationals who managed to reach U.S. ports of entry during this period, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) allowed them to enter by granting them parole at ports of entry, known as port parole. Thousands of others who could not reach the United States at that time were forced to apply for humanitarian parole through the traditional way of submitting an application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
However, Afghan nationals began to see massive delays in the adjudication of their humanitarian parole applications. Government statistics show that from January 1, 2020 to April 6, 2022, USCIS—the agency in charge of adjudicating humanitarian parole applications—received 44,785 applications where the applicant’s country of citizenship was Afghanistan, and only approved 114 of those applications, or less than 0.3%. This bottleneck of applications essentially foreclosed this benefit as a potential option for those Afghans who could not reach the United States, many of whom remained in Afghanistan.
Government statistics covering a slightly different time period tell the same story. From January 1, 2020, to April 6, 2022, USCIS received 44,785 applications where the applicant’s country of citizenship was Afghanistan, and only approved 114 of those applications.
Notably, government figures show that between March 1, 2021, and March 22, 2022, USCIS received over $19 million from humanitarian parole applications filed on behalf of Afghan nationals.
These figures show that it was extremely difficult for Afghan applicants who directly requested humanitarian parole through the I-131 process to have their cases adjudicated even though the agency collected extensive fees from these applications. Applicants’ best chances for being approved for humanitarian parole were when a U.S. agency requested the parole, an avenue that was available to only a handful of Afghans.
The developments in the humanitarian parole process revealed through government records highlight the insurmountable odds faced by Afghan nationals trying to reach the United States. It is evident from the available documents that USCIS was not prepared to adjudicate the high volume of humanitarian parole applications from Afghans who did not make it on those early flights to the United States. The shifts in adjudication protocols with no notice to the public, including USCIS’ de-prioritization of processing applications from individuals who remained in Afghanistan and the temporary hold placed on adjudications in light of the high volume of applications received, undoubtedly contributed to the delays in adjudications. These circumstances, and not just the volume of applications, are the reason why humanitarian parole has failed to provide a feasible avenue for relief to vulnerable Afghans who have not been able to reach the United States.