Columnist Razvan Sibii: A way to ‘adopt a refugee’

  • Families evacuated from Kabul, Afghanistan, walk through the terminal before boarding a bus after they arrived Friday at Washington Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Va. AP

Published: 8/27/2021 4:36:50 PM

Although the U.S. does not usually allow its residents to “adopt a refugee,” it does have one emergency procedure that might make it possible for regular Americans to help get a refugee out of Afghanistan.

If granted an “emergency humanitarian parole,” an Afghan who has a good reason to fear for their life at the hands of the Taliban can enter the United States on short notice, even if they would otherwise not be legally “admissible.” Once on American territory, they can apply for asylum or another kind of “adjustment of status” that would allow them to remain in the U.S.

Many Afghans who are desperate to flee their country do not have an American veteran or contractor vouching for them or a family member in the U.S. They might, however, be able to get an emergency humanitarian parole if a U.S. resident fills out an “affidavit of support” guaranteeing that the foreign national being sponsored “will not become a public charge while in the United States.”

“Usually, the U.S. government likes to have family members or friends, someone who knows that individual personally, to file the parole application. From an adjudication point of view, they feel much more secure when family or friends guarantee financially for that person, as opposed to someone with no ties to that person. But I am going to ask even folks who don’t know Afghan refugees to fill one out. Because there’s nothing in the law that prevents anyone from doing it,” said Dana Roxana Bucin, an immigration attorney with Murtha Cullina LLP in Hartford, and a member of the board of directors of the Connecticut Immigrants & Refugee Coalition.

“Obviously, we’re looking first and foremost for family members, but you can’t have someone guarantee for 39 family members. We have to find sponsors from the community,” Bucin explained.

She said that the sponsor would have to show the government that they possess enough assets and money to help the parolee for the envisioned duration of their parole, should they need it.

“We have to find good Samaritans who have a good financial situation. And by ‘good,’ I mean they make at least 125% over the poverty level, which is not much. For example, if you have a household of two, it’s a little over $30,000 a year in income,” Bucin said.

Those who are looking for someone to sponsor should check with immigration-focused non-governmental organizations in their area, as they are the most likely to compile lists of individuals who genuinely need help and do not have another avenue to immediately leave Afghanistan for the U.S.

Bucin also advised that sponsors do their best to enlist the support of a politician.

“Politicians can get to federal agencies in ways that attorneys cannot. They have special channels. So the best combination is a lawyer with a politician. The lawyer files the paperwork and finds the right legal channel, like the humanitarian parole, and files the application, and then arms the senator with that and tells them to push the Department of State to do whatever they can do. I cannot dispatch military planes in Afghanistan. But the senator might be able to make that happen,” Bucin said.

Razvan Sibii is a senior lecturer of journalism at UMass Amherst. He writes a monthly column on immigration and incarceration. He can be contacted at razvan@umass.edu.


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