Jul 12, 2022 - News

Fleeing Afghans stuck in immigration limbo in Iowa

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Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Almost a year since thousands of Afghans fled their country during the Taliban's takeover — many of them in the U.S. and here in Iowa are finding themselves in immigration limbo that may leave them without proper documentation.

Why it matters: Several of the Afghans who came here are technically not refugees — meaning 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 time is up.

State of play: For the 700 Afghans who resettled in central Iowa, many came in on "humanitarian parole," which allows them to enter the U.S. temporarily under urgent reasons.

  • But the parole status ends between one to two years, meaning they need to obtain a green card, work permit or visa before then.
  • The influx of Afghan people has backed up the already slowed system, Jody Mashek of IMMJ said. Some people have already found jobs, but renewing a work permit under the federal government currently takes 5-7 months because of the backlog.
  • "The U.S. brought everybody here, created the situation and right now, there is not any permanent path for these Afghan members of our community to stay here," Mashek said.

What's next: IMMJ, the Drake Legal Clinic and Iowa Legal Aid are holding in person information sessions to help families figure out their next steps to becoming permanent residents before their parole status expires.

  • You can get info on the next sessions from [email protected].
  • IMMJ also needs help funding enough staff and attorneys to assist people through the legal application process.

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