Written by Dominique Poirier, Director of Legal Services
Recently, several of our Just Neighbors’ staff headed over to Dar Al-Hijrah mosque for our monthly, walk-in legal clinic where we provide immigration legal advice to any immigrant who needs assistance: One of the many wonderful social services Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center provides to needy community members of all nationalities and faiths.
This month's clinic was markedly different: A crowded lobby full of recent Afghan arrivals all of whom had heart-wrenching stories of trauma, narrow escapes, families left behind, and staggering loss. None of these individuals have an easy avenue to legalizing their status in the U.S., as the vast majority of the 70,000+ Afghans were “paroled” in on Humanitarian Parole: A temporary status which will expire, along with any work authorization they may have, in two years from the time of their entry. The lack of such a dedicated, vetted pathway to legalization means that tens of thousands of Afghans will have to apply for asylum by the Fall of this year or risk missing the one-year filing deadline required to qualify for asylum. Non-profit organizations such as Just Neighbors cannot possibly handle the onslaught of legal services the Afghan community needs to file asylum applications - easily, the most complicated type of immigration case - nor can recent Afghan arrivals afford the $8,000 or more the private bar charges per individual for an asylum case.
There is an easy answer to this dilemma: Pass the Afghan Adjustment Act. Congress has historical precedent in The Cuban Adjustment Act, The Indochinese Parole Adjustment Act, and other similar laws. We have both an obligation to our fragile and overburdened asylum system, straining under a backlog of hundreds of thousands of asylum applications, as well as a moral obligation to assist those Afghans we have vetted, evacuated, and brought to the U.S. with only flimsy, temporary legal status and little assistance from the over-whelmed refugee resettlement organizations. It's time for Congress to act with a permanent solution: Pass the Afghan Adjustment Act.