Afghan fugitives stuck in immigration limbo in Iowa

Artwork: Megan Robinson/Axios

Nearly a year since thousands of Afghans fled their country during the Taliban takeover – many of them in the US and here in Iowa find themselves in immigration limbo that may leave them without proper papers.

Why is this important: Many of the Afghans who have come here are technically not refugees, which means they still have to apply and go through the immigration process to stay.

Driving the news: The Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice, Drake Legal Clinic, and Iowa Legal Aid are trying to help a number of Afghans apply for legal status before their deadline ends.

State of play: For the 700 Afghans who resettled in central Iowa, many entered “humanitarian parole”, which allows them to temporarily enter the United States for urgent reasons.

  • But parole status ends between one and two years, which means they must obtain a green card, work permit or visa before then.
  • The influx of Afghans has bolstered the already sluggish system, said IMMJ’s Jody Mashek. Some people have already found a job, but renewing a work permit with the federal government is currently taking 5-7 months due to the backlog.
  • “The United States brought everyone here, created the situation and right now there is no permanent way for these Afghan members of our community to stay here,” Mashek said.

And after: IMMJ, the Drake Legal Clinic, and Iowa Legal Aid are hosting in-person information sessions to help families determine the next steps to becoming permanent residents before their parole expires.

  • You can get information about the next sessions of [email protected]
  • IMMJ also needs help funding enough staff and lawyers to help people through the legal claim process.


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