Tens of thousands of Afghan refugees could be released into the U.S. without a decision about their immigration status, CBS News reported on Thursday.
The refugees came to the U.S. on humanitarian parole instead of with visas, and many of them don’t have a way to obtain lawful permanent residence, according to CBS News. Since August, over 55,000 Afghan refugees were evacuated to the U.S., and around 40% of them qualify for special immigrant visas, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
“We evacuated them here. We did that. It’s not very equitable to force people to stay in this limbo state,” Church World Service Policy Director Meredith Owen said, CBS News reported. Church World Service is one of the organizations working with Afghan refugees in the U.S. resettlement programs.
Around 5,400 Afghans arrived in the U.S. with special immigrant visas between July and September with their spouses and children, according to U.S. Department of State data. If the refugees don’t qualify for special immigrant visas, they must apply for asylum in order to stay in the U.S, CBS News reported.
Around 53,000 Afghan refugees are now staying at eight military bases across the U.S. where they receive vaccinations for COVID-19, polio, measles and chickenpox, according to CBS News. Of that group, 49,000 were fully vaccinated and remained at the bases for the recommended 21 days.
U.S. evacuation flights resumed on Tuesday after cases of measles among new arrivals led to a three-week suspension, CBS News reported. Around 15,000 evacuees are now waiting to come to the U.S. from countries in Europe and the Middle East.
Some Afghan refugees might have trouble with their asylum petitions because they don’t have the necessary documents, according to CBS News. Congress directed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials to expedite the processing of Afghan refugees and to quickly issue final decisions despite a massive backlog in asylum processing.
“Some families destroyed paperwork based on U.S. Embassy instructions, knowing these documents could be a death warrant if found by the Taliban. And of course, these are the same papers that are required for seeking asylum,” Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service President Krish O’Mara Vignarajah told CBS News.
It’s unclear what happens when Afghan refugees aren’t granted asylum by the U.S., though they may become subject to deportation proceedings if their parole runs out, CBS News reported.
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