“First, we understand that, unlike Ukrainians, Afghans must have an in-person consular interview with a U.S. consular officer,” lawmakers wrote in the May 26 letter to the president, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ur Jaddou. “Without an operating U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan or the option to apply for parole remotely, Afghans seeking to safely exit their country face significant financial, logistical, and safety challenges.”
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Lawmakers note that while Afghan refugees “must provide proof of individualized, targeted violence by the Taliban,” Ukrainians don’t have to show that they were specifically targeted by Russian invaders. Senators say the requirement for Afghan refugees “seems especially unnecessary given the well-documented and widespread life-threatening conditions in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover.”
Lawmakers also note the Biden administration’s Uniting for Ukraine program, which speeds processing for refugees with relatives already in the U.S. They say that under that program, Ukrainian applicants pay no $575 parole application fee. While the Biden administration said last summer that it would be waiving work permit fees for some Afghan refugees, it appears they do have to pay the parole application fee. They write this is “an immense sum of money for nationals of a country with a median per-capita income of $378.”
“While the U.S response to the Ukrainian refugee crisis has been admirable, it is unfortunate that this welcoming and accommodating model is not the standard for all humanitarian crises, wherever they occur, whether in Haiti, throughout Central America, in Africa, the Pacific, and elsewhere,” Markey Jeanne Shaheen, Patrick Leahy, Cory Booker, Ron Wyden, Tina Smith, Patty Murray, and Elizabeth Warren continue.
This disparate treatment has unfortunately not been unique. While the Biden administration was internally warned that Haitian deportations under Stephen Miller’s anti-asylum Title 42 policy could violate law, they continued into the thousands. But then the administration would later issue a memo reminding U.S. border officers that they have the discretion to exempt Ukrainians from that policy.
Cameroonian asylum-seeker Wilfred Tebah “doesn’t begrudge the U.S. for swiftly granting humanitarian protections” for families fleeing Russia’s brutal invasion, the Associated Press reported last month. He said he just hoped the same consideration is extended to Black asylum-seekers who are also fleeing for their lives. "I will be held in prison, tortured, and even killed if I am deported,” he told the AP. “I’m very scared. As a human, my life matters too."
“It’s a shameful but well-documented reality that the United States has long prioritized European Christian migrants. That must end,” Markey tweeted. “Refugees from Afghanistan and around the world facing persecution, instability, and violence should not face barriers that Ukrainians get to bypass.”
Advocates say Ukrainian refugees need a pathway to resettlement in the U.S.
'The American dream I am enjoying today': Former interpreter urges permanent relief for Afghans
'My life matters too': Black migrants note disparate treatment under U.S. immigration policy