Two years since Operation Allies Welcome (OAW) brought more than 78,000 Afghan evacuees to the United States, Afghans are playing a key role in local U.S. communities, as shown by a newly released International Rescue Committee (IRC) report. However, the potential of their successful resettlement and long-term integration could be hindered without a clear pathway to permanent status in the U.S.

Over the past two years, humanitarian parole has afforded Afghan evacuees a temporary stay in the U.S. but it does not provide a clear path to permanent residency or eventual citizenship. While the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced a process for Afghans to apply for re-parole, which would extend an Afghan’s stay for two more years, the temporary nature of parole remains. Moreover, under humanitarian parole, the options for family reunification are extremely limited, causing separated Afghans to experience anguish and trauma as they wait to be reunited with loved ones. Without adjustment legislation, the only other pathway toward lawful permanent residence for most Afghan parolees is asylum. Yet, only a portion of Afghan humanitarian parolees have applied, and only a fraction have had their asylum application been granted. The current need to apply for asylum in order to find a permanent status creates additional burdens for both Afghans, who must be able to seek, find and afford legal representation, and the asylum system, which is already facing a massive backlog of cases. Some Afghan humanitarian parolees may also be eligible to apply for SIV status, but this program similarly faces a significant backlog. The Afghan Adjustment Act (AAA) would relieve pressure on both backlogged pathways, enabling other people seeking protection to have their cases heard. 

Despite these challenges, Afghan humanitarian parolees are contributing to the economic vibrancy of local communities and they are poised to fill a crucial role for years and decades to come. Within the first year of resettlement, 76% of Afghan households surveyed reported at least one adult employed. Afghans placed in jobs through IRC employment programs earned an average wage of nearly $17 an hour equating to more than $70,000 in income in over two years. Afghan households with two full-time employed adults are projected to contribute more than $110,000 in consumer spending in two years and generate more than $100,000 in social security contributions in ten years. Additionally, more than 67% of Afghan evacuees placed in jobs by the IRC were under the age of 35, which will be crucial for meeting the needs of an aging U.S. workforce. However, these livelihoods are at risk as long as the legal status of Afghans remains in limbo. 

The IRC once again calls upon the U.S. Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act and ensure more than 78,000 Afghan humanitarian parolees can continue their lives in America without fear or uncertainty for the future. Passing the Afghan Adjustment Act is key to enabling the future contributions of Afghans to U.S. communities, providing mechanisms to reunify their families, and alleviating burdens on other humanitarian pathways.

Hans Van de Weerd, IRC Senior Vice President for Resettlement, Asylum and Integration, said:

“Since the 2021 evacuation, Afghan humanitarian parolees have become a part of the rich cultural and economic fabric of America. However, their success and future remains in limbo as long as they do not have a clear pathway to permanent status. The Afghan Adjustment Act must be passed to ensure Afghan humanitarian parolees are able to continue rebuilding their lives and have the opportunity to reunite with their families. 

The 2021 Afghan relocation effort demonstrated what the U.S. can accomplish when there is bipartisan political will and humanitarian ambition. The U.S. government must once again harness this spirit of welcome and keep the promise of safety made to Afghans that it chose to welcome by providing them with the opportunity to stay in the U.S. - for good. Otherwise, not only will America’s national character and national security be put at risk, but also the lives of the more than 78,000 Afghans who now call the U.S. home.”