DHS introduces exemptions to broaden protections for Afghan refugees

Published: Thursday, June 16, 2022 - 10:48am

It’s been months since U.S. troops withdrew from Afghanistan and evacuated tens of thousands of Afghans after the country's government fell to Taliban rule. But with many still in limbo, a set of guidelines introduced by the Departments of Homeland Security and State aims to broaden protections. 

Last fall, the U.S. evacuated some 80,000 Afghans, most of whom were under threat from the Taliban over their work with the U.S.

But many are still prevented from getting asylum protections or travel visas because of broad U.S. terrorism law.

DHS hopes to address those situations with a series of exemptions to those laws. In a release out this week, DHS said these exemptions will be on a case-by-case basis, but could give people like doctors, teachers and postal workers, or those who fought with the U.S. military, a chance to bypass those laws and apply for protection in the U.S.

The DHS release said Afghans who provided insignificant or limited support to a designated terrorist organization could also be considered, because the Taliban's far-reaching presence and control in Afghanistan had forced many people living in the country to interact with them in some way.

"These actions will also ensure that individuals who have lived under Taliban rule, such as former civil servants, those required to pay service fees to the Taliban to do things like pass through a checkpoint or obtain a passport, and those who fought against the Taliban are not mistakenly barred because of overly broad applications of terrorism-related inadmissibility grounds (TRIG) in our immigration law," the statement read. 

The agency said exemptions would not be considered for people who shared Taliban ideology or goals, or fighters who had targeted civilians, U.S. personnel or who had committed human rights abuses. 

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