As recently as last week, the U.S. immigration service was using six officers to process about 14,000 humanitarian requests for Afghans seeking relocation to the United States following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August.
That’s what the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services told congressional staff, Congressman Jim Langevin, a Democrat from Rhode Island, said Thursday during a House Homeland Security Committee meeting.
“I want to say that again: 14,000 humanitarian parole applications with just six officers,” Langevin said. “That is completely and utterly unacceptable, and I call on USCIS to address the shortcoming immediately.”
The number has continued to surge in recent days, with the agency receiving nearly 20,000 such requests as of Friday, more than 10 times the number of humanitarian applications submitted from around the world in a typical year, according to a USCIS official.
Humanitarian parole is special permission given to foreigners to enter the United States under emergency circumstances. While it does not automatically lead to permanent residence, “parolees” can apply for legal status once they’re in the U.S.
The majority of the humanitarian requests have been filed by Afghan Americans on behalf of relatives seeking to flee Taliban rule.
The U.S. led the evacuation of more than 124,000 civilians, mostly vulnerable Afghans, in August, but tens of thousands of others were left behind.
For many at-risk Afghan civilians with no direct ties to the U.S. military or government, humanitarian parole is the only option of finding safety in the United States.
A spokesman for Langevin told VOA that the information about the USCIS humanitarian parole backlog came during an October 12 agency briefing for congressional staff.
Asked about Langevin’s criticism of the backlog, the USCIS official said the agency is assigning additional staff to address the workload.