Some Afghan refugees now have a chance at asylum or visas

Doctors, teachers, engineers and other Afghans who were forced to join the Taliban now stand a chance of asylum or visas after the Biden administration on Tuesday eased a terrorism-related classification, according to government officials and documents obtained by by the Los Angeles Times.

The exemption will be applied on a case-by-case basis after a security clearance and is intended to help Afghans who fled their country after US troops withdrew and the Taliban took over last August, as well as some Afghans who entered the US earlier , officials from the Department of Homeland Security said.

Humaira Rasa boards an evacuation flight out of the country with other Afghan nationals,

A woman, along with other Afghan nationals, boards an evacuation flight out of the country at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, October 3, 2021.

(Marcus Yam/Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times)

Some may be tagged with the terrorism plate if they pay their electricity bill to the Taliban, pay money to get through a Taliban checkpoint, or receive a Taliban-issued passport. Others may be given the designation because they worked as civil servants under Taliban rule in the 1990s. Among them are Afghan nationals who have helped the US government. You must otherwise be eligible for asylum, refugee or other immigration status.

As part of Operation Allies Welcome, the US has allowed more than 79,000 Afghans into the country since the Taliban took over last year.

Afghans, “including those who have bravely and loyally supported US forces on the ground in Afghanistan at grave risk to their security, should not be denied humanitarian protection and other immigration benefits because of their inescapable proximity to war or their work as civil servants,” he said he Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas in a statement.

In Los Angeles, a 49-year-old man who came to the United States decades ago was denied a green card last year for being forced as a college student in the late 1980s to help a group affiliated with the Afghan mujahideen in Afghanistan His attorney Stacy Tolchin is in touch.

He distributed leaflets and stationary weapons, believing that if he didn’t do so, he would be harmed, Tolchin said.

Tolchin hopes her client can now get a green card, along with a chance to bring family members to the US

“I’m going to cry,” she said. “That is morally and politically correct.”

US immigration law prohibits persons who are members of a “terrorist organization” or engaged in “terrorism-related” activities from obtaining refugee or asylum status.

Immigration advocates and some government officials have long said the law is too broad and could apply to situations not normally considered terrorism. Congress has allowed exceptions since 2005, and immigration officials have issued them to other groups.

The exceptions may apply to those who fought against the Taliban or against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan from the late 1970s to early 1990s, those who served as civil servants during Taliban rule from 1996 to late 2001, according to US officials and documents were employed or after August 2021, and those who have provided “minor or certain limited material support” to a designated terrorist organization.

“Because of the Taliban’s presence and control of facilities, roads and utilities, many individuals residing in Afghanistan have had to interact with the Taliban in ways that made them unable to enter the United States without such an exception under U.S. law ‘ read a statement from the Department of Homeland Security.

The policy does not apply to those who have targeted US interests or non-combatants, violated human rights, held high-ranking positions during the Taliban era, or supported the Taliban. US officials believe the new exemptions could help those seeking special immigrant visas, which will be made available to those who have helped the US government in Afghanistan.

Shugufa, center, and other members of the Zohra Orchestra, all women's orchestra from the

Shugufa, center, and other members of the Zohra Orchestra, all women’s orchestra of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, wait in line for passport control as they prepare to board an evacuation flight from Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, October 3, 2021 , to climb .

(Marcus Yam/Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times)

“We remain committed to our Afghan allies and are processing special immigrant visa applications as expeditiously as possible while always protecting our national security,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said in a statement.

The group Human Rights First has long said the provisions harm refugees unconnected to terrorism, including those from countries other than Afghanistan.

Anwen Hughes, director of legal strategy for the refugee program at Human Rights First, said implementing the exceptions is critical.

“It’s not that this is a blanket waiver, but it does mean that where everyone agrees that people have been victims of the unjust consequences of these laws, there will now be a tool to give them relief,” she said.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-06-14/afghan-refugees-now-have-a-chance-to-avoid-terrorism-designation-that-blocked-their-path-to-the-u-s Some Afghan refugees now have a chance at asylum or visas

Alley Einstein

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