DHS to allow some Afghans to enter US without formal visas

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is using his parole authority to allow some Afghan evacuees to enter the United States while they wait for their applications to be processed, a senior administration official told reporters on Tuesday.

The official said that, in some instances, Mayorkas is using his parole authority to allow Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants who are in the pipeline but who haven’t completed the application process to potentially be given parole.

“The Secretary of Homeland Security is using his parole authority, including his ability to impose particular conditions of parole on those arriving, to ensure that those who are reaching here are doing so obviously with the appropriate legal status,” the official said.

Those who are granted parole would need to first pass a rigorous security check the Biden administration is undertaking for Afghans seeking to enter the U.S. The administration is transporting evacuees to transit centers in third-party countries where they are undergoing security checks.

Under the parole authority, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can allow individuals outside the U.S. to enter the country based on “humanitarian or significant public benefit reasons.”

The senior administration official didn’t specify other categories of Afghans beyond SIV applicants who could be eligible for parole. The administration has also been evacuating other Afghans eligible for Priority 1 and Priority 2 refugee designations. 

The administration has vowed to provide a pathway to America for those who assisted the U.S. but don’t meet the two-year work requirement previously needed to get an SIV, allowing them to instead come to the U.S. through the lengthier refugee process. 

“That parole authority is one that provides some flexibility for individuals for whom there is not a relevant legal status and in appropriate cases where people passed that security check I mentioned, that parole authority — again there is accompany conditions of parole where appropriate — is one of the things at play here as people enter the United States,” the official said. 

The official did not expand on what would constitute “appropriate” circumstances under which an individual fleeing from Afghanistan could be granted parole.

DHS did not return a request for more information.

The move follows pressure from lawmakers for Mayorkas to use his parole authority for broad categories of people.

“It is imperative that the Department of Homeland Security establishes a special humanitarian parole program specifically for women leaders, activists, human rights defenders, parliamentarians, journalists, and other highly visible women currently at risk. This would allow for the immediate and efficient relocation of these extremely vulnerable women to the United States,” a bipartisan group of more than 75 lawmakers wrote in a letter to Mayorkas last week.

The 14-step SIV process was lingering beyond 800 days even before President Biden moved to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

The administration has since taken some steps to speed processing of SIVs, including allowing the final step — the medical exam — to take place on U.S. soil. 

More than 100,000 people may be seeking to evacuate Afghanistan, including Americans and at-risk Afghans and their families. Estimates suggested 10,000 to 15,000 Americans remain in Afghanistan, along with 80,000 Afghan allies and their families, prior to the evacuation operation.

The U.S. military recorded its largest daily airlift in a 24-hour period between Monday and Tuesday, flying 12,700 people out of Afghanistan.

Tags Afghan refugees Afghanistan evacuations Alejandro Mayorkas Joe Biden SIV visa

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