Fleeing from the Taliban: Status of Afghan Evacuees
By: Madeline Meyer
(Published in the March 2022 Civilian)
Withdrawal of American troops in Afghanistan last year did not come without many costs, and during the last weeks of withdrawal, terror spread across the country when 13 U.S. troops and dozens of Afghan nationals were killed in the suicide bombing by an ISIS-K member at the Kabul airport where withdrawal efforts were taking place. Last year, President Biden ordered final withdrawal of the troops in Afghanistan to finally put an end to a twenty year war, the longest in U.S. history. Over the last couple of decades, the Taliban continued to regain control over the country; and in combination with the lethal display of power in Kabul, many Afghan nationals who aided the United States and U.S. citizens were at risk of being persecuted by the Taliban. As a result, over 120,000 individuals were evacuated with nearly a third being resettled in the United States. Shaken up by the tumultuous chain of events in their war-torn country, many enter onto a land entirely foreign to them, lacking even the most basic necessities and overwhelmed by the bombardment of new information.
Sparked by the 9/11 attacks by Al-Qaeda in 2001, the War in Afghanistan has spanned over four presidencies. Weeks after the terrorist attack, President George W. Bush launched the war after Afghanistan refused to turn over the Al-Qaeda leaders who planned the attack. Then, during President Obama’s term, nearly 100,000 troops were deployed, but the Taliban’s control continued spread. Changing course, President Obama ceased major combats in Afghanistan and transitioned its focus to training Afghan security forces instead. Critical of the continued presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, President Trump began troops withdrawals, and President Biden finished the job. Despite financial support totaling $4 billion a year in the training of Afghan security forces, this proved insufficient to the Taliban who took over Afghanistan before withdrawal was completed.
Shortly after the mass evacuation, President Biden initiated Operation Allies Welcome (OAW) to assist evacuees who helped the United States or were otherwise vulnerable to persecution by the Taliban but not yet U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. Due to the urgency of the matter, certain evacuees were issued parole for “urgent humanitarian reasons.” In the past, parole has been used as a better alternative for emergency situations because it does not require a visa beforehand and only takes a day or two to grant.
However, parole is only a temporary fix to their path to citizenship. Only lasting for two years, the parole status is not guaranteed even after granted and is contingent on satisfying additional conditions placed on their parole. While parole traditionally only shields one from deportation and allows them to apply for work authorization, Congress passed a continuing resolution that expands their benefits and services to be the same as refugees, which opens access to certain federal program funding.
After an extensive vetting process and their parole status confirmed, Afghan parolees are connected with a resettlement affiliates associated with the Department of State’s Afghan Placement and Assistance Program (APA). Nationally, more than 68,000 Afghans have been relocated to the United States under OAW, according to the Department of Homeland Security, as of January 31.
Baton Rouge’s local resettlement affiliate, Catholic Charities Diocese of Baton Rouge, a resettlement affiliate, has taken on the task to help them integrate into society. Already having received nearly fifty persons and set to receive an additional fifty in these next coming months, Catholic Charities helps provide assistance navigating American society through “case management, cultural orientation, English language training, and employment services.” Currently, it is looking for volunteers to assist evacuees by driving them to classes or appointments, setting up their apartments, mentoring, and donating goods and furniture.
It’s not uncommon to hear that the United States is a “melting pot” of different cultures. Similar to a melting and mixing materials into one cohesive unit, this melting pot suggests that the United States is a nation built by immigrants with varying cultures that mix to become a sort of quasi-shared identity. Yet unlike two metals, these Afghan nationals require more than just a certain temperature to become properly mixed into American society. Often arriving only a suitcase, these evacuees require a substantial amount of resources to be able to stand on their two feet in the United States. And for Afghan nationals who are often wholly unfamiliar with American culture, any assistance helping them mix into society is appreciated. If you would like to learn more about how you can help, reach out to Madeline Meyer, Pro Bono Chair of the Public Interest Law Society, at firstname.lastname@example.org.