Jun 15, 2022 - World

Biden administration expands terrorism-related exemptions for Afghan evacuees

Afghan refugees at airport

Refugees from Afghanistan at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Va., in August 2021. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security and State Department announced on Tuesday that they would expand the number of terrorism-related exemptions to allow Afghan evacuees who worked with and supported the U.S. government to qualify for protection and immigration benefits.

Why it matters: Existing exemptions from terrorism-related inadmissibility grounds (TRIG) include providing material support under duress and voluntary medical care to terrorist groups.

  • Exemptions have been used more than 30 times by previous administrations, including in 2019 when the Trump administration invoked it for immigration applicants who had ties with the Lebanese Forces or Kataeb Militias during the Lebanese Civil War, according to the DHS statement.

The big picture: The departments said the three new exemptions will be applied on a case-by-case basis to rigorously screened individuals to ensure that those eligible won't be automatically denied benefits or protection.

  • One of the exemptions will apply to Afghans who supported U.S. military interests in the country, such as by fighting with or supporting the resistance movement against the Taliban.
  • Another exemption will be for civil servants, such as teachers and postal workers, who worked in their roles during Taliban rule, either from 1996 to 2001 or after August 2021. This will not apply to those who held high-level positions.
  • The third exemption will apply to people who provided "insignificant or certain limited material" to a terrorist organization, such as paying a fee to pass through a Taliban checkpoint or obtain a passport to flee Afghanistan.

What they're saying: "These actions will also ensure that individuals who have lived under Taliban rule, such as former civil servants, those required to pay service fees to the Taliban to do things like pass through a checkpoint or obtain a passport, and those who fought against the Taliban are not mistakenly barred because of overly broad applications of terrorism-related inadmissibility grounds (TRIG) in our immigration law," the departments said in a statement.

  • "These exemptions will allow eligible individuals who pose no national security or public safety risk to receive asylum, refugee status, or other legal immigration status, demonstrating the United States’ continued commitment to our Afghan allies and their family members," Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said.
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