If there is one thing that anyone in the U.S. immigration process can agree on, it is that the process has always been slow and frustrating. But, now, more than ever, the entire process is extremely slow. This is, in part, due to the 20,000 Afghan Humanitarian Requests the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has been attempting to process since the beginning of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Last week, according to USCIS, they were still trying to process 14,000 requests from Afghans that are trying to relocate to the U.S. Though, what shocked most of us, was not necessarily the high number (after all, the chaos of that withdrawal was widely covered), but it was the fact that these 14,000 humanitarian parole applications were being processed by six officers. But, recently, that number has not gone down, as of Friday, it was up to 20,000. This is more than 10 times the number usually submitted per year. Up until the evacuation concluded, the U.S. evacuated over 124,000 civilians, but there were tens of thousands of others that were not evacuated.
This is a special type of permission that is granted to foreigners under emergency circumstances. It does not always turn into permanent residence, but it does allow them to apply for status once they are in the U.S. For those that did not directly help the U.S. military or government, humanitarian parole is the only option for getting out of Afghanistan and legally enter the U.S.
Not equipped for these numbers
The USCIS is now seeking volunteers to help work through the backlog and bringing on additional people. Though, experts agree that the system is simply not equipped to handle this kind of volume. Some experts believe the number could reach as high as 150,000 this year.
Before being granted parolee status and being admitted, their identifies must be verified, fingerprints taken and travel documents issued. These documents are only issued by a U.S. embassy. But, this is not so easy because the embassy in Kabul was moved to neighbouring Qatar in Doha. This means that, even though they can apply while in the country, they will have to find a way to another country to get pre-approval, and then go to a third country for vetting at a U.S. consulate. For Royal Oak, Michigan, this is yet another example of how daunting the U.S. immigration system has become.