This week, we read about the work permit backlog, TPS protections for Afghan refugees, and how the Biden administration will be helping Ukrainian refugees.
Increasing delays at USCIS are leaving immigrants waiting months on end for work permit renewals. Before the backlog, work permit renewals typically took up to three months to process. Now, they are taking up to 12 months, and the wait times are only increasing. This has resulted in hundreds of immigrants losing their permission to work as they wait on renewals.
Work permits are usually auto-renewed for 180 days once applicants request a renewal. This safety period ensures that applicants still have permission to work while the request is being processed. However, due to the backlog, the 180 days have not been sufficient.
Immigrants affected are being put on unpaid leave or, worse, being fired due to the wait. The backlog nearly doubled in 2021, and was made worse due to the pandemic.
Many immigrants have grown frustrated. When calling USCIS offices, they will often only receive an automated response.
The Biden Administration is granting a form of immigration relief called temporary protected status (TPS) to Afghans. TPS legally shields certain foreign nationals from deportation and allows them to work in the U.S. for up to 18 months (or for as long as the TPS is available).
More than 76,000 Afghans have resettled in the U.S. since the military withdrawal from Afghanistan this past summer. Most entered the U.S. under humanitarian parole. Humanitarian parole does not offer a clear pathway to permanent residency.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas determined Afghanistan was too dangerous for migrants to be deported to.
Mayorkas cited the Taliban, economic crisis, hunger, drought, and water insecurity as reasons for qualifying Afghanistan for TPS designation.
Senator Mayorkas also spoke about the moral obligation the U.S. has to migrants from Afghanistan. “Under this designation, TPS will also provide additional protections and assurances to trusted partners and vulnerable Afghans who supported the U.S. military, diplomatic, and humanitarian missions in Afghanistan over the last 20 years,” Mayorkas said.
Many immigration advocates are pushing for a more secure way to guarantee a pathway to citizenship for Afghan refugees. While many celebrate the TPS designation, some are pushing for Congress to make Afghan refugees eligible for green cards.
President Biden is discussing ways to help Ukrainian refugees find their family members in the U.S. After increasing pressure, the administration is considering many different options to put Ukrainian refugees on a faster path for humanitarian protection.
More than 3 million Ukrainians have fled the country in just a few weeks due to the Russian invasion. The Biden administration has faced pressure from both the president of Poland and Ukraine to do more to assist refugees.
White House officials said they anticipate the situation to escalate in the coming weeks and months. The administration is working with the United Nations to facilitate family reunification for Ukrainians. However, this process can be complicated, and resettlement can take a long time. People in the U.S. with family in Ukraine have been trying to find ways to bring their relatives into the U.S. However, this has been difficult, due to strict visa rules.
The administration continues to explore more ways to make it easier for Ukrainian refugees to resettle in the U.S. The DHS Secretary has also designated Ukraine for temporary protected status (TPS).