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Afghan refugees at risk: steps the White House can take to help

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Rachel Rhodes

The White House issued a memorandum this week authorizing emergency funding of up to $500 million for refugees in Afghanistan, as the Taliban have continued to solidify control in the country. 


Stephen Yale-Loehr

Professor of Immigration Law

Stephen Yale-Loehr, professor of immigration law at Cornell Law School and co-author of a leading 21-volume immigration law series, says the White House memorandum is a good first step, but much more needs to be done to help people at risk in Afghanistan.

Yale-Loehr says:

“Yesterday’s White House announcement authorizing emergency funding of up to $500 million for refugees in Afghanistan is a bare first step to address the chaos in Afghanistan. The administration should take several other actions: 

  • Increase the number of refugee numbers available to Afghans. This year the U.S. is likely to admit fewer than 10,000 refugees from the entire region.
  • Demand neighboring countries like Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan to open their borders to Afghan refugees.
  • Speed up processing for special immigrant visas for Afghans who aided the U.S. military. According to reports, the U.S. has evacuated less than one percent of the 80,000 Afghans who have applied for special immigrant visas.
  • Use an existing immigration process known as humanitarian parole to allow other people who may not qualify as refugees to enter the U.S. Humanitarian parole is used to bring someone who is not otherwise eligible to enter the country, or who does not have a visa, into the U.S. temporarily because of an emergency or urgent humanitarian reason. A bipartisan group of 46 senators has urged the administration to do this.
  • Immediately suspend all deportations and forced returns to Afghanistan.”

“In addition, Congress should increase the number of special immigrant visas available for Afghan interpreters and others who have worked for the United States in Afghanistan.” 

“The situation in Afghanistan requires a coordinated effort. We have done that before. For example, we evacuated more than 100,000 Vietnamese to Guam before and after the fall of Saigon in 1975. After an uprising in Hungary in 1956, we admitted approximately 38,000 refugees from that country. It is our moral duty to do it again for Afghans at risk.”

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