Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 31

FEATURE
" We undoubtedly have the resources to make it happen, " Montreuil says.
" It's just a question of whether the will exists. "
The United States was capable of reproducing these efforts in
Afghanistan when the withdrawal was announced, according to
Montreuil, but since September, extractions have become more complicated.
With the Taliban seizure of Kabul, traveling to the airport has
become a harrowing gauntlet for those left behind.
FINDING SOLUTIONS FOR CLIENTS
Immigration attorneys have been working to find ways to expedite the
applications of their clients while also developing strategies to help
protect individuals who don't neatly fall into the SIV or refugee categories.
Humanitarian parole is one possibility, granted to an otherwise inadmissible
person who faces an individualized threat to their safety or for
family reunification.
Sharifa Abbasi and Alexa August of HMA Law Firm, a Virginia law office
whose immigration practice includes a substantial Afghan clientele, say
that humanitarian parole applications are rarely granted and that there
are other obstacles to parole's effective use on behalf of Afghan
nationals.
" It usually costs $575 per individual to file for one of these paroles, "
August says. " So, if you have a family of five, that gets expensive quickly,
and anyone who takes a repatriation flight already has to repay the
United States [for the flight]. "
" The repatriation forms we fill out say that this can cost $2,000 or more,
and we don't have time to coordinate with a nonprofit to cover the
parole fees, " August continues. " So if the Biden administration could
waive that fee, we don't have to apply for a waiver and wait for [it] to be
adjudicated ... we can just move directly to the humanitarian parole
form and make that the focus. "
Many of the cases represented by the firm are stuck at various stages of
administrative processing. Abbasi says that immediate relief could also
include permitting SIV applicants remaining in Afghanistan to travel to
the United States while processing continues.
Although the U.S. military withdrawal has increased the intensity of
immigration delays, Abbasi and August have been dealing with many of
the same problems for years. " These people cannot wait in Afghanistan
for their case to be processed, " Abbasi says, referring to the thousands of
Afghans who are still hoping to get out of the country.
" If they do have an option to get out, they're afraid to do that because
they don't know what will happen to their SIV case. So, if they can get
third-country processing, at least they are given some chance at safety. I
think it's far from any remedy or rehabilitation, but it's something we can
do, " says Abbasi, who came to the United States as an Afghan refugee.
Pending asylum cases of Afghans should also be adjudicated on an
expedited basis, she adds.
The Afghanistan crisis creates peril for many, including the beneficiaries
of family-based immigrant petitions. Abbasi and August provide an illustrative
example of one of their clients, who came to the United States on
an SIV and eventually acquired U.S. citizenship. The client's wife was
pregnant and alone in Afghanistan with their two-year-old son, also a
U.S. citizen, when the Taliban took over. Documentation required for the
wife's I-130 immigrant petition took more than two years to complete,
only for her visa interview to be stalled due to administrative delays, the
COVID-19 pandemic, and the recent conflict. Because she had no male
relatives to accompany her, she faced significant risks just getting to the
airport to leave the country. The Taliban has accosted and assaulted
unaccompanied women with increasing frequency as the crisis deepens.
The family was reunited in the end, but August says her firm has many
more clients, either SIV applicants or individuals married to U.S. citizens,
who remain stuck in Afghanistan.
Commercial flights out of Afghanistan have resumed for anyone with
" approved travel documents, " but August says the Taliban is interpreting
these to mean a U.S. passport, green card, or U.S. visa. " Our clients who
were documentarily complete for consular processing, or anyone
approved for humanitarian parole who has not been able to do consular
processing due to the U.S. embassy closure, are forced to leave the
country and go to a U.S. embassy in a neighboring country to complete
consular processing to get visa. For many Afghans, this puts them at the
mercy of human traffickers, " August says.
Abbasi and other immigration attorneys, as well as advocates, have been
calling for a serious reform of the U.S. immigration system to prevent the
kinds of failures that have already occurred. " Let's call it for what it is, "
Abbasi says. " Our immigration system is broken. A lot of the delays are
due to unnecessary administrative processing. If the resources were dedicated
to these cases, they wouldn't need to take as long. "
Abbasi says it can take a year or more for a case to move from the U.S.
Citizenship and Immigration Services, which approves immigrant visa
petitions, to the National Visa Center, which processes the visas. There is
no guarantee that family visa applications would be approved at the
same time. In one case, Abbasi's client received approval within weeks of
her visa interview, while her husband's application languished for two
years. No reason was ever given for the delay.
Efforts to assist Afghan nationals fleeing the Taliban remind August of
the United States' origins as a refuge for those fleeing oppression and
persecution, but also of shameful points in its history when it failed to
respond to a refugee crisis with the necessary urgency.
In 1939 American ports turned away MS Saint Louis, a ship carrying more
than 900 Jewish refugees who were denied entry into Cuba, their
original destination. The passengers appealed to President Roosevelt to
grant them an exception to the U.S. immigration policy. " The president
never responded, but a telegram from the State Department summarized
the government's position: 'the passengers must await their turns
on the waiting list and qualify for and obtain immigration,' " wrote international
migration expert Susan Martin in her 2010 book A Nation of
Immigrants.
The ship sailed to Canada, which also refused to take in the passengers,
and then to Europe, where a few countries offered limited refugee slots.
The majority of the passengers, however, were forced back into Nazioccupied
European countries and ultimately taken to concentration
camps and killed. The State Department formally apologized for its
actions in 2012.
Reach D.C. Bar staff writers Jeremy Conrad and John Murph at
JConrad@dcbar.org and JMurph@dcbar.org, respectively.
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2021
* WASHINGTON LAWYER 31

Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021

Letter to Members
From Our President
Calendar of Events
Practice Management
Toward Well-Being
Reforming Conservatorship: A Battle Over Best Interests
Legal Deserts: No-Man’s Land of Affordable Legal Help
The Unfinished Work of Equal Justice for All
Pro Bono Mentoring for High-Impact Help
The Afghanistan Fallout: Broken Promises & Processes
Taking the Stand
ABA Delegate’s Corner
On Further Review
The Learning Curve
Member Spotlight
Worth Reading
Attorney Briefs
Disciplinary Summaries
Speaking of Ethics
The Pro Bono Effect
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 3
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 4
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - Letter to Members
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - Toward Well-Being
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - Reforming Conservatorship: A Battle Over Best Interests
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 11
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 12
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 13
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - Legal Deserts: No-Man’s Land of Affordable Legal Help
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 15
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 16
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 17
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 18
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 19
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - The Unfinished Work of Equal Justice for All
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 21
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 22
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 23
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - Pro Bono Mentoring for High-Impact Help
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 25
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 26
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 27
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - The Afghanistan Fallout: Broken Promises & Processes
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 29
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 30
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 31
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - Taking the Stand
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 33
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - ABA Delegate’s Corner
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - The Learning Curve
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 37
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - Member Spotlight
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 39
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 40
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 41
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 43
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 46
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 47
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 49
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 50
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 51
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 52
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 53
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - The Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - 55
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2021 - Cover4
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