Afghan Allies in Limbo: Discrimination in the U.S. Immigration Response

Lindsay Muir Harris
Date of Publication: 
June, 2023
Source Organization: 

A professor of Law at the University of the District of Columbia, Lindsay Harris considers U.S. treatment of Afghan refugees since the fall of Kabul as the “latest episode in the long history of racism in the creation, execution, and implementation of immigration policy in the United States.” This bias is most obvious in the disparate treatment of Ukrainians and Afghans in recent refugee policy. Although 67,000 Afghans were admitted to the U.S. after the fall of Saigon, they were only granted temporary parole status lasting two years. Although regularization of status was possible through the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, derisively called the “spectacular failure” program by one analyst, very few Afghans were able to qualify for this program. The only other route was the backlogged asylum process, which requires an individualized evidence standard that is hard to comply with, as well as many years of waiting for a final decision. Like Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion, not all Afghans will have an individualized fear of harm; many are fleeing generalized violence and very difficult conditions under Taliban rule. In the meantime, Congress has failed to approve the Afghan Adjustment Act, designed to remedy these problems. The author believes that the Afghans admitted to the U.S. should be treated presumptively as refugees, thereby granting them a path to full citizenship. The essay also compares the treatment of Afghans stranded abroad with Ukrainians fleeing their home country. The latter find it much easier to secure parole status in the U.S., while most Afghans have been denied admission, including the thousands of SIV applicants left behind in Afghanistan.

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Harris, L., (2023, June). Afghan Allies in Limbo: Discrimination in the U.S. Immigration Response. Social Science Research Network.