Failed Afghan policy
This appeared in the N.Y. Daily News
In the year since the botched U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, tens of thousands of Afghans have been forced to suffer through another administrative disaster, this one unfolding mostly in drab D.C. office buildings via mountains of monotonous paperwork.
In the aftermath of the pullout and the lightning-quick Taliban takeover, Afghans who worried for their lives and freedom — including many who are at risk for supporting U.S. aims and weren’t able to immediately evacuate with the retreating Americans — were told that they could apply for humanitarian parole, which would allow them to enter the U.S. and remain here in safety while they sought a more permanent status.
A year on, this has started looking like a bait and switch. Reveal at the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed recently that, of about 66,000 applications filed last July and this May, only 8,000 had even been processed. Of those, there were a total of 123 approvals, about 1.5% of the applications resolved and 0.2% of the total applications filed. The government collected a $575 application fee for each.
With the announcement that the Biden administration is phasing out the Afghan parole program at the end of this month and focusing instead on the more permanent but more complicated Special Immigrant Visa and refugee pathways, the government stands at an inflection point that could go one of two ways. Ideally, it will commit the resources necessary to meet the need and adopt reasonable standards for admission, understanding that many thousands of Afghans are in direct danger of repression and harm from the Taliban, including many already denied parole. Or, it could wash its hands of the matter and leave them to their fate.
It must commit to the former, which starts by rebuilding the refugee infrastructure. This fiscal year, the administration is already set to way undershoot the annual refugee cap, largely because processing capacity was eviscerated under Trump. We failed in whatever objectives we had in Afghanistan; we must do what we can to help now.