On Friday, The University of Tulsa College of Law hosted a workshop at the TU Legal Clinic to assist 60 Afghan evacuees in extending their valid immigration status. These individuals face the risk of being deemed “deportable” once their humanitarian parole status expires in the next 90 days. To address this, TU faculty and staff are organizing similar workshops in the next 30 to 60 days to help more than 300 additional Afghan evacuees.
Over the past two years, the TU Legal Clinic has been serving the 850 Afghan evacuees who were resettled in Tulsa after fleeing from the Taliban takeover in August 2021. Now, hundreds of those evacuees who haven’t yet applied for asylum or green cards could be deported when their parole status expires at the end of the summer.
“Initially, it was expected that Congress would pass an Afghan Adjustment Act (AAA), similar to the Cuban Adjustment Act, to offer these U.S. allies a clear path to green cards and citizenship,” attorney and Project 850 Legal Fellow Matt Flynn said. “Unfortunately, the legislation faced obstacles from a few extremist politicians, hindering its progress. As a result, all of the approximately 80,000 Afghans who were evacuated to the U.S. are now forced to navigate our broken immigration system, either by applying for asylum or a special immigrant visa (SIV), both of which can take more than two years to process due to the system’s limited resources.”
Despite the efforts of the nonprofit and pro bono legal services community in Tulsa, Flynn said the Afghan evacuees remain uncertain about their future. These individuals were evacuated due to their involvement with this country, their professional qualifications, or belonging to persecuted minority groups in Afghanistan who have suffered at the hands of the Taliban.
“The prospect of danger they faced in Afghanistan has now followed many of them to the U.S. as they face the possibility of being forcibly returned there,” Flynn said.
The Biden Administration, through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, responded in June to Congress’ failure to pass an AAA by introducing a re-parole process for Afghans. The program allows Afghan parolees to apply for another two-year period of parole. Flynn said he worked with the director of the Tulsa Immigrant Resource Network, Elijah Johnson, and YWCA Director of Legal Services Alex Gavern to organize this series of workshops. TU Law faculty, staff, and students, along with YWCA staff members and volunteers from First Oklahoma Bank, are helping evacuees navigate the complicated re-parole process and stay in the U.S.
Flynn said this workshop illustrates the incredible legacy that Professor Elizabeth McCormick left behind when she passed away Friday morning. McCormick founded the Immigrant Rights Project, as well as the Tulsa Immigrant Resource Network.
“The Tulsa Immigrant Resource Network at TU Legal Clinic will continue working closely with TU students, faculty, and staff, as well as organizations like the YWCA and Catholic Charities, to ensure that each of our 850+ new Tulsa neighbors maintains valid immigration status and remains on the path to citizenship,” said Flynn.