Metro Detroit residents hoping to quickly bring family in Afghanistan to Michigan

Posted at 5:09 PM, Aug 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-30 19:27:39-04

(WXYZ) — As thousands of people remain stranded at the Kabul airport desperately seeking a flight out of what is now Taliban territory, some are hoping family in Michigan could be their ticket to safety.

The rush to leave Afghanistan only heightened following Thursday's suicide bombing at the Kabul airport. The Michigan Immigrant Rights Center says they're handling several cases in metro Detroit of permanent residents or U.S. citizens with family in Afghanistan trying as quickly as possible to get them here safely.

“There is something under immigration law known as parole,” said Ruby Robinson, attorney with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center.

It's only temporary, not permanent legal status here, but once you're paroled into the U.S. you can apply for temporary work authorization. The process of applying for and being granted parole can take between five and 12 months, Robinson says. Time that especially right now seems like an eternity.

“It’s very scary for our client and their family members,” Robinson said. "The concerns that we’re hearing from our clients about, 'I don’t know what’s going to happen to my uncle, I don’t know what’s going to happen to my husband.'”

Afghan nationals who helped the U.S. during the war could be eligible for a special immigrant visa and thousands of Afghans will seek refugee status here or elsewhere.

Robinson and his team, who work pro-bono for people who qualify under a certain income bracket, are helping a handful of local citizens right now using parole to try and bring spouses, siblings, or parents here to metro Detroit.

The hope, he says, is that it will be able to continue even after U.S. troops leave Tuesday, but that's not certain yet.

They're also working with some permanent residents to speed up the naturalization process because you have to be a citizen before you can petition to bring family here.

“The majority of the families we’re talking to, maybe it was in kind of the distant future that they would help a family member come to the United States if it was at all possible, but now that cycle is being expedited,” Robinson said.

Due in part to both COVID and policies that slowed or stopped some immigration processes under the Trump administration, Robinson says there is a decent backlog right now. Another concern once the U.S. does leave Afghanistan on Tuesday, is what impact, if any, will that have on people's ability to leave – all adding to this very difficult situation.