Congress has re-introduced the Afghan Adjustment Act. The Asylum officers union says it's urgent

Published: Tuesday, July 18, 2023 - 10:24am
Updated: Tuesday, July 18, 2023 - 10:26am

Lawmakers in Washington have re-introduced the Afghan Adjustment Act. The bill failed to pass at the end of last year. A bipartisan coalition of U.S. Senators and Representatives — including Arizona Democrat Greg Stanton and Republicans Juan Ciscomani and Davin Schweikert — re-introduced a new version this month.

If passed, the law would create a pathway to citizenship for tens of thousands of Afghans who worked alongside the U.S. military and were evacuated from their country in the fall of 2021.

Most evacuees were brought to the U.S. on humanitarian parole. It’s a temporary immigration status that doesn’t give recipients a pathway to citizenship. The status is set to expire in a few months for most.

The next step is applying for asylum.

Michael Knowles is a spokesperson for the American Federation of Government Employees’ National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council 119, the national union that represents more than 1,4000 Citizenship and Immigration Services employees, including asylum officers. He says asylum officers have been tasked with working on Afghan cases through a special program that fast-tracks them. But even that process is backed up.

“So that caseload has indeed suffered because so many of our officers were diverted to do the Southwest border,” he said.

Knowles says roughly 1,000 asylum officers nationwide are tasked with handling tens of thousands pending immigration cases, including those for Afghans. 

Meanwhile, the Biden administration’s new rule at the border requires asylum officers to do more intense and more immediate screenings for migrants, a process Knowles’ union and a wide range of rights groups have come out against

He says beyond the new asylum rule’s moral implications for officers tasked with carrying it out, he says the new process is also spreading the agency’s already-strained resources even thinner.

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