Helping Arriving Afghans at NOVA Support Center

By Amie Kashon

Human Rights First assisted recently-arrived Afghans with their legal and resettlement issues at the Northern Virginia (NOVA) Afghan Support Center from January 31 to February 3.  

At this Support Center, like several before it, staff from Human Rights First worked with our partners in the Evacuate Our Allies (EOA) coalition to provide Afghan arrivals legal consultations, answer general questions about family reunification and relocation, and help attendees navigate the range of government and social services available on site. 

Amie Kashon and Bill Rice at the NoVA Support Center

Nearly 16,000 Afghans have been served at thirteen Support Centers that have taken place across the country; Human Rights First participated in all but one. 

The NOVA Support Center, designed to assist recently-relocated Afghans in the Washington, DC area,  was the largest  to date. Over 4,500 Afghans accessed a variety of services provided by a range of social service agencies, government, and local refugee organizations.

Afghans worked with USCIS to check on their asylum cases and work authorizations.  They  connected with the Department of State to address their ongoing family reunification and Special Immigrant visa questions. Some accessed legal support for their immigration cases from Human Rights First and other organizations. Others found local social services, including housing, education, employment, and food provisions.  

Human Rights First staff with coalition partners. 

Staffing the Evacuate Our Allies table alongside coalition partners like Global Refuge, the Association for Wartime Allies, Kids in Need of Defense, Project Anar, and  others, we saw firsthand recently-arrived Afghans’ ongoing need for legal services. 

Bill Rice, Associate Attorney with Human Rights First’s Project: Afghan Legal Assistance (PALA), met with 37 families who were without representation. These families sought protection in the United States through a variety of pathways, including humanitarian parole and through the CBP One app at the Southern border.  

Because they are unable to access the legal services provided to Operation Allies Welcome parolees given restrictions on federal funding, Rice guided them through the legal screening process in hopes of matching them with pro bono attorneys.  

There are few organizations in the United States like PALA – and few attorneys like Rice – offering legal support for Afghans who crossed into the United States at the southern border, who entered on humanitarian parole or on temporary visas, or who bring with them complex legal issues. 

“We met with Afghans in need of various forms of legal support,” Rice said. “There were a number of Afghans who had arrived in the United States as recently as a few days before, under Humanitarian Parole, who were seeking to apply for asylum to gain a more permanent status in this country.” 

“We also met a number of southern border arrivals who were now in removal proceedings, Rice continued. “About half of them had used the CBP One app and received parole while the other half had entered without inspection and had not received parole. We were able to include these individuals on our screening list to potentially connect them with legal support for their asylum cases.” 

Rice also saw Afghans seeking assistance for family still in Afghanistan. “As with every Support Center, we spoke with a number of Afghans who were desperately trying to find ways of getting family members out of Afghanistan, including children over 21, parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins, and in-laws.”

As the Program Manager of the EOA Operations Center, I spent my time at the EOA table helping individuals   make use of legal services offered by EOA and  other  on site providers. I often escorted individuals  to federal government agents or other service providers that I thought could offer them the most assistance. 

The Support Centers provide a model for  the way asylum seekers might better engage  with the U.S. government bureaucracy. I saw  USCIS resolve issues – around work permits, re-parole, even asylum grants – that would take days if not weeks to settle by phone. 

Farishta Sakhi from Freedom House with Amie Kashon.

This in-person element shows how difficult it can be to navigate the U.S. immigration system, and how much more accessibility to services we need to provide to welcome Afghans and other new arrivals. Online accounts like MyUSCIS and critical forms are often not translated into the languages of these new arrivals and do not account for varying rates of literacy. 

At the Support Centers, recurring issues that require the attention of Congress and the federal government are also made starkly clear. Nearly every individual who approached the EOA table inquired about pathways for loved ones left behind in Afghanistan. As family-based immigration pathways are backlogged from four to seventeen years, the government must provide alternate avenues that allow Afghans to reunite with parents,  siblings, and adult children who face dire risk under Taliban rule. Resolving this issue demands meaningful immigration reform or  a family-reunification based parole program. 

Human Rights First looks forward to continuing our service to our Afghan allies at the next Afghan Support Centers.  One will be held in St. Louis, MO from February 28 to March 2 and in Syracuse, NY from March 21 – 23.  Human Rights First, EOA, and PALA will also provide assistance to recently-arrived Afghans at future events, in legal clinics, and through advocacy.  

The United States made a promise to two generations of Afghans, and at the NOVA Afghan Support Center it was clear to me that we and our colleagues will do all we can to keep that promise: at-risk Afghans will be protected from harm by the Taliban and welcomed with dignity into the United States. 



  • Amie Kashon

Published on February 29, 2024


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