Among the 31,000 people airlifted to safety in the U.S. from Afghanistan in recent weeks, over 23,000 are refugees who are looking to start new lives in America.
According to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, the vast majority of these people are being accommodated at 7 military bases across the U.S. awaiting customs processing, on top of another 20,000 who are being housed in European bases. These “high-risk” evacuees are part of a group of around an estimated 50,000 people who served alongside our armed forces in some way during the Afghan conflict which ended abruptly this month, after President Biden followed through on a deal made with the Taliban by former president, Donald Trump.
There will be extensive humanitarian and immigration efforts over the coming months to integrate these people into the American way of life, with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin insisting that they will too face “careful screening and security vetting”. Colleague Jen Psaki, Biden’s Press Secretary, said they are also working with third countries to determine their willingness to take additional refugees and speed up the resettlement process. Countries including Canada, the U.K. and Australia have already announced their intention to grant asylum to thousands of refugees. Many of those resettled in the U.S. will receive “Special Immigrant Visas”, reserved for those who directly worked for the United States and its military.
In related news, the Biden Administration has presented new proposals to overhaul the asylum process at America’s southern border. The rule, which is aimed at significantly speeding up the asylum adjudication process, would allow USCIS officers to make decisions on cases instead of immigration judges – and hopefully reduce the backlog of asylum court cases.
The proposals still need to go through a 60-day public consultation process before a final rule which would contain changes based on public response and outline how this will work in practise.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the rule would give immigration officials the “ability to more promptly and efficiently consider the asylum claims of individuals encountered at or near the border, while ensuring fundamental fairness.”
Under current rules, any migrant at the border who is placed in expedited removal proceedings and makes a claim for asylum undergoes a “credible fear” screening with an immigration officer. If the immigrant passes, they then move to the immigration court system where they can apply for asylum via a judge, who will ultimately decide their case.
The new policy, however, would change what happens following the credible fear screening. Under this new policy, the screening would count as the asylum application itself, and immigrants who pass that screening would then have their cases heard by an asylum officer and be considered for other protections. Applicants can still request to have their case reviewed by a judge is they are initially refused.
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