Afghan refugee evacuation: US’ lack of planning is unconscionable, says lawyer

Protesters gather in support of the Afghan people in Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C. on August 15, 2021. This protest occurred hours after the Taliban gained control of the city of Kabul, Afghanistan's capital. Photo by Matthew Rodier/Sipa USA.

After the Taliban took over Afghanistan, nine U.S. Air Force planes arrived at the Kabul airport overnight to assist in evacuation efforts. The Pentagon says it hopes to send out one flight per hour in the next few days, lifting thousands of people out of Afghanistan. 

But tens of thousands more Afghan allies are still waiting for approval to come to the U.S. They would come with a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV), a program for Afghan citizens who worked with the U.S. in the 20-year war effort. So far, the U.S. has only relocated about 2,000 Afghans in the past two weeks.

“It's a humanitarian catastrophe. And unfortunately, it was a completely preventable one,” says Adam Bates, Policy Counsel at the International Refugee Assistance Project

The Afghans who might be targeted and potentially killed by the Taliban — it’s possible for the U.S. to evacuate them now and sort out their visa approvals later, he says. 

“Historically, that is what the U.S. has done. Under our immigration law, the president … [can] use a power called parole to allow people to enter the country temporarily so that they can be processed safely on some path to legal immigrant status.”