Supporting Afghans at Support Center in Atlanta
From November 15 through November 18, 2023 several members of Human Rights First’s staff attended the Afghan Support Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Director of Veterans for American Ideals and Outreach Chris Purdy, Evacuate our Allies Program Director, Amie Kashon, Associate Attorney William Rice, and Afghanistan Advocacy Campaign Manager for the Evacuate Our Allies Coalition Seelai Karzai all participated in our work with and for our Afghan allies at the Support Center.
Strong attendance at this Support Center included EOA coalition members responding to the ongoing need for legal service providers to assist Afghans who have recently arrived in the United States. Over the Support Center’s several days, staff spoke with Afghans who had case-specific questions regarding pending SIV applications and family reunification inquiries, as well as general questions about immigration, resettlement, and the work of the Evacuate Our Allies (EOA) coalition.
Upon their return from the Support Center, staff members who attended offered their recollections, thoughts, and outlook:
“It’s important to attend these Afghan Support Centers because it means we can see the fruit of our efforts through the EOA coalition,” said Seelai Karzai. “I was able to speak with Afghan men and women who sacrificed and had to leave everything behind in Afghanistan to have the chance for a better life in Atlanta. It was also the first time at these Support Centers that an Afghan was naturalized and became a United States citizen. This is the dream that our coalition has for the thousands of Afghans who are here waiting in legal limbo: an Afghan Adjustment that would grant them a pathway to become legal permanent residents and begin rebuilding their lives in relative safety.”
“The ability to connect in-person with Afghans and support them on their ongoing resettlement journey is one of the most impactful parts of this work,” said Amie Kashon. “These Support Centers bring into focus the wide ranging benefits of impactful collaboration between the U.S. government and civil society, but also highlight many of the ongoing pain points for Afghans as they continue their long-term resettlement journeys. The dozens of conversations I had about family reunification – men and women who had been separated from their spouses, children, parents, and siblings for over two years – illustrate the limitations of our current pathways to safety.”
“Atlanta was there to greet Afghans as they arrived after the August 2021 evacuation, and they continue to show up for them today,” said Chris Purdy. “The Support Center was well attended by both local partners and the Afghan community. Seeing local and national partners work alongside multiple government agencies to improve the lives of our Afghan neighbors was a special experience.
“These USCIS Afghan Support Centers have been a crucial component in supporting Afghans here in the United States. Not only are we able to connect with Afghans in need of legal support in various areas (asylum, Special Immigrant Visas, Humanitarian Parole, Temporary Protected Status, Family Reunification), but we also are able to gain valuable facetime with USCIS staff to help resolve pending issues with our Afghan clients at Human Rights First. For instance, in Atlanta we were able to draw USCIS staff attention to the number of Afghans in the United States who are still awaiting re-parole approvals and extensions,” said Bill Rice. “The USCIS staff at these centers are extremely helpful, knowledgeable, and more than ready to assist with any problems we may be facing with client needs. In another example of how valuable these support centers are, while in Atlanta, Human Rights First staff was able to assist an Afghan attendee by informing her of her upcoming asylum-filing deadline and connect her with legal services. In addition, the USCIS Listening Sessions at these Support Centers are particularly useful for conveying national and local concerns from legal service organizations in regards to Afghan cases.”