WASHINGTON — (AP) — Afghan refugees in the United States will be allowed to stay for at least 18 months under Temporary Protected Status, the government announced Wednesday, a move that will help some of the thousands of people who arrived following the chaotic withdrawal. American from their campaign.
Afghans must already be in the United States and pass a background check to be eligible for the program, which aims to help thousands of evacuees to the United States under short-term status known as humanitarian parole when their country fell to the Taliban.
For many, however, time is running out because they have not yet secured permanent residency through pending programs such as the Special Immigrant Visa, which is issued to people who have worked as interpreters or other titles for the United States and its allies during the 20-year war.
Meanwhile, their country has sunk into a deep economic crisis under the Taliban regime, and millions of them are at risk of starvation.
“This TPS designation will help protect Afghan nationals who were already living in the United States from being returned to unsafe conditions,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement announcing the decision.
More than 76,000 Afghans were admitted to the United States after the American withdrawal in August. Homeland Security said about 40% will be eligible for a special immigrant visa, a long and complex process that ultimately provides permanent lawful residency and a path to citizenship.
Most have now settled in communities across the United States, with the greatest number moving to Northern Virginia and the surrounding Washington, DC area; Northern California; and Texas.
Refugee advocates have urged the Biden administration to designate Afghanistan for temporary protected status to prevent Afghans from being stranded without legal residency when their two years of humanitarian parole expire.
“We welcome this designation as an important affirmation that Afghans already in the United States cannot safely return to their homeland,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, chairman of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. “During the resettlement of thousands of Afghan families since the evacuation, we have heard heartbreaking testimonies of the devastating and destabilizing conditions in Afghanistan. Many of their loved ones remain in the country and desperately need our help to get to safety. »
Refugee advocates have also pressed Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act, which would grant Afghans permanent residency and allow them to apply for U.S. citizenship, as has been done for refugees in the past, including for people from Cuba, Vietnam and Iraq.
The United States has granted temporary protected status to people from a dozen countries, including recently Ukraine. Repeated extensions of 18-month status have left tens of thousands of people in a kind of immigration limbo for years.
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