‘I cannot go back:’ Future of Hampton Roads Afghan evacuees in limbo as humanitarian parole expiration nears

‘I cannot go back:’ Future of Hampton Roads Afghan evacuees in limbo as humanitarian parole expiration nears

Hundreds of Afghanistan natives living in coastal Virginia, who aided the United States military during the war in their homeland, could soon be faced with an impossible decision.

“Do they stay and live in the United States undocumented? Or do they go back to Afghanistan?” asked Nicole Medved, an attorney fellow with the William & Mary Law School Immigration Clinic. “That is a terrifying and very difficult choice for people to have to make.”

Following the fall of Kabul in August of 2021, thousands of Afghans, most of which have supported the U.S. Armed Forces in some way, were evacuated from their home country.

Hundreds landed here in Hampton Roads.

“These are people who stood with members of our military in 20 years of very, very difficult times in Afghanistan,” explained Medved.

One of those people is Mumtaz Baheer, who spent several years aiding the United States as a journalist.

Today, he lives in Newport News with his wife and five children.

“I cannot go back to Afghanistan,” he said. “I can imagine that I will be tortured by the Taliban or imprisoned by the Taliban.”

Mumtaz is able to speak with us more safely due to his Special Immigrant Visa status, but he says the future of hundreds of Afghan evacuees living in coastal Virginia is uncertain, and they could face deportation back to their home country in the near future.

“The reason that Afghans are able to be here right now is they are on a temporary status called humanitarian parole,” explained Medved.

But that humanitarian parole is set to expire this August. Families can reapply, but the process is grueling and there’s no guarantee they’ll get approved.

“If their humanitarian parole expires before they get a decision, and then the asylum office denies them for some reason, and asylum is very, very difficult to win. They will be referred to Immigration Court, and the government will be taking steps then to deport that person,” said Medved.

While the application itself is free, it’s made expensive by the need for legal assistance. This leaves many Afghan natives reliant on pro bono work, which is oftentimes difficult to find.

“Most of them are not able to pay for a lawyer,” said Mumtaz.

The applications are also only offered in English, which many evacuees are still learning to speak fluently.

“Some people, especially women, may not have had a formal education in Afghanistan,” added Medved. “So they never learned to necessarily read or write in their first language and now have to fill out these complex legal forms in English.”

While reapplying and getting accepted for humanitarian parole would legally allow Afghan evacuees to stay in the United States, it still doesn’t offer any pathway to permanent citizenship.

But Medved says there is currently legislation sitting in Congress that does.

“Call your representatives to ask that they reintroduce the Afghan Adjustment Act,” said Medved.

The Afghan Adjustment Act was introduced to the U.S. Senate last August, but has since been tabled. The Act’s passage would provide a clear pathway for our Afghan neighbors to obtain permanent residency, and eventually, citizenship.

“They are here because they could be harmed by the Taliban or killed by the Taliban if they are to return,” explained Medved. “We can fulfill our promises to them by getting out of this temporary cycle of humanitarian parole and passing the Afghan Adjustment Act.”

“The Afghan Adjustment Act is very important,” added Mumtaz.

Passage of the Act would allow people like Mumtaz to continue contributing to the Hampton Roads economy and pursue greater ambitions.

Right now, Mumtaz independently supports his entire family through manual labor, nothing close to his former job of working as a journalist in his home country.

“I’m standing and running and lifting merchandise for nine hours, for nine hours, because of my family,” said Mumtaz.

Mumtaz is hoping to attend college in the United States so he can re-enter the world of journalism, but he can’t do that until achieving permanent status. He says he applied for Green Card status over one year ago and still hasn’t gotten a response.

But Mumtaz says he will continue to make ends meet to ensure his kids, especially his four daughters, can achieve a good education within the United States.

“I have four daughters. If I go back to Afghanistan, my daughters will lose access to education,” he explained. “If I go back to Afghanistan, it means that I will destroy my daughter’s future. So I sacrifice my life for my family and for my daughters.”

Like this post? Please share to your friends:
Leave a Reply

;-) :| :x :twisted: :smile: :shock: :sad: :roll: :razz: :oops: :o :mrgreen: :lol: :idea: :grin: :evil: :cry: :cool: :arrow: :???: :?: :!: