Reports of high numbers of denials, slow processing of applications since changes to humanitarian parole parameters for Afghan nationals


Washington (December 20, 2021) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Representative Seth Moulton (MA-06) led 53 of their colleagues in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) expressing alarm about restrictive and inconsistent processes the agency has adopted towards the more than 30,000 Afghans who have applied for humanitarian parole to the United States, and the speed at which these applications are adjudicated. Afghans applying for parole are reporting new and burdensome standards for proving threat levels and inconsistent standards being applied to applications from those in Afghanistan or in a third country. The lawmakers request justification for the changes made to the new humanitarian parole parameters, citing DHS’s authority to provide relief to individuals in times of pressing humanitarian need. Up to 500,000 Afghans are likely to seek refuge outside of the country by the end of the year and half of the country’s population is in need of aid.


“Tragically, tens of thousands of Afghans and their families now face persecution and death threats from the Taliban, as well as threatened deportation back to Afghanistan for those who made it to third countries,” write the lawmakers in their letter. “We urge you to ensure that all vulnerable Afghans, including those in third countries and those still stranded in Afghanistan, are paroled into the United States and not left to languish in legal limbo.” 


A copy of the letter can be found HERE.


Other Senators co-signing the letter include: Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).


Other U.S. Representatives co-signing the letter include: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Mike Doyle (PA-18), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL), Susan Wild (PA-07), Sara Jacobs (CA-53), Henry C. "Hank" Johnson, Jr. (GA-04), Dina Titus (NV-03), Jim Cooper (TN-04), James R. Langevin (RI-02), Grace Meng (NY-06), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Jim Costa (CA-16), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Brian Higgins (NY-26), Kaiali‘i Kahele (HI-02), Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11), Bill Keating (MA-09), Jake Auchincloss (MA-04), Adam Smith (WA-04), Diana DeGette (CO-01), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Madeleine Dean (PA-04), Chellie Pengree (ME-01), Rick Larsen (WA-02), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07), Suzan DelBene (WA-01).


A 2017 USCIS training manual explicitly provides instruction that USCIS may grant parole to individuals who are facing fear of harm due to generalized violence. USCIS has since changed that standard for Afghan nationals by requiring third-party evidence of severe, targeted, or individualized harm or threats.


The Secretary of DHS holds broad discretionary authority to grant parole to applicants for admission to the U.S. temporarily on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit. Previous administrations have acted on this authority to provide relief to individuals in times of pressing humanitarian need. In 2014, the Obama administration started the Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program, and in 2010, the Obama administration created a parole program for children orphaned as a result of the earthquake in Haiti. The U.S. also used parole authority during the 1994 Cuban Migration Crisis.