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January 05, 2022

Interested in helping Afghans apply for asylum? Here's a way to start


The ABA Commission on Immigration, through a new partnership with refugee resettlement agency HIAS, is hoping to help more people from Afghanistan who were evacuated to the United States after the Taliban took over their country last year.

A key piece of their initiative is a free webinar series for attorneys who are interested in assisting Afghans—many of whom were granted a temporary, two-year parole status upon their arrival and now have to apply for asylum. The first webinar on Jan. 12 will share a broad overview of the asylum process, as well as opportunities to represent resettled people and families.

“So many people want to help individuals who are still in Afghanistan, but we’re hoping that people also see the value of helping folks who are here, who are equally traumatized and in need of support and services,” says Adonia Simpson, the Commission on Immigration’s director of policy and pro bono and moderator of the first webinar. “These Afghan asylum-seekers don’t get appointed counsel to help them in the process, so pro bono is really critical.”

Interested attorneys can find more information and register here. The next webinars in the series will be in February and March.

In addition to developing these trainings and a related pro bono toolkit, the Commission on Immigration and HIAS are working to create comprehensive pro se materials for Afghans who have to understand the asylum process. These materials will be translated into Dari and Pashto—the two official languages of Afghanistan—and distributed through the agency’s network of refugee resettlement affiliates.

“Our mission is how can we help our network best service the clients they are seeing in their communities?” says Rachel Zoghlin Bautista, the associate director of pro bono and partnerships at HIAS. “By partnering with the ABA, we’re developing this way to provide legal orientation and legal services to the greatest amount of Afghan parolees as possible, both keeping in mind the limitations of the environment right now and that clients are across the country.”

While the ABA and HIAS aim to provide Afghans access to more information, Simpson says they also hope to connect them with attorneys who can help them draft and file their asylum applications—or better yet, represent them through their entire cases. In September, Congress directed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to expedite the cases of Afghans who entered the country through the parole process.

“We are heavily encouraging people to get assistance because it’s high stakes,” Simpson says. “If their application isn’t granted by the asylum office, people may end up in removal proceedings. It’s really important that people get the right information and the right support, and that’s what we’re aiming to do with this project.”

For more information on the ABA’s other efforts, visit the Afghanistan Response Project website.

See also:

ABA Journal: “Scores of lawyers work to gain temporary legal status for 250 female judges in Afghanistan”