- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 31, 2021

A group of Democrats is urging Homeland Security to cancel the fees that normally would have been charged for Afghans who are being evacuated to the U.S., saying they are worried the need to pay will hold up some applications and cost some would-be migrants their lives.

Rep. Jim Himes, who is leading the push, said they don’t want to see corners cut on the security side.

“But charging a filing fee that holds up the entire process and potentially costs refugees their lives doesn’t make Americans any safer,” he said. “It’s exactly the type of red tape we need to cut through if we’re serious about saving as many lives as we can.”  

Parole applications normally require a $575 fee, though a waiver is allowed. But it must be applied for specifically.

The nearly three dozen lawmakers Mr. Himes is leading said they want the waiver to be automatic.

“Put simply, vulnerable Afghans shouldn’t have to demonstrate their financial need during a crisis in order to have their parole request considered. Without adjustments, this process will create an unnecessary backlog for humanitarian parole requests,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter Monday to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Originally the pitch for allowing a surge of Afghan migrants was to rescue people who’d assisted the U.S. war effort in the country, though at this point those cases appear to be a small portion of the tens of thousands whom the U.S. evacuated.

Most are coming under parole, a special humanitarian exemption to the law that allows them to enter for a set period of time. They then must seek some more permanent status, or else leave at the end of their parole.

They are required to have proof of self-sufficiency, either by themselves or a sponsor.

The lawmakers said their offices have received tens of thousands of inquiries from Afghans interested in reaching the U.S.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which handles the applications, is almost entirely funded by fees, and the agency is already struggling with a major financial imbalance. Waiving the Afghans’ fees would deepen that situation.

Congress could step in with taxpayer money.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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