The Look in Brief

Shelby commission approves funds for refugee legal aid

By: - December 6, 2021 11:31 pm
Shelby County Commission. (Photo: Shelby County Government)

Shelby County Commission. (Photo: Shelby County Government)

The 25 Afghan refugees now living in Memphis need protection from deportation and the sooner they get legal protection, the better, said lawyers with a non profit legal organization.

On Monday, the Shelby County Commission awarded $250,000 to the Community Legal Center to assist Afghan refugees in applying for permanent residence in the U.S.

As the Afghan government collapsed, the Biden administration sought to evacuate as many Afghan nationals and U.S. citizens as possible before relations deteriorated with the Taliban, who had taken over.

Normally, refugees seeking to immigrate into the U.S. spend years in refugee camps awaiting their applications to be processed, if they are fortunate enough to not have lost their identifying paperwork fleeing civil unrest. 

Instead, Afghans fleeing the country were sent to military bases and labeled as parolees, which allowed their applications to be processed within months.

Initially, this group of refugees were not eligible for federally-funded benefits, but the U.S. Congress allowed the Afghans to apply for Medicaid and other federal programs.

As parolees, Afghans are shielded from deportation, but only temporarily. Those with parolee status are allowed to stay in the country for up to two years and are eligible to work, but if they wish to stay in the country, they must apply within a year of arrival.

The process of applying and receiving a green card, or permanent residency, can take years to complete.

We need to begin our legal services forthwith,” said Diana Comes, executive director of the Community Legal Center.


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Dulce Torres Guzman
Dulce Torres Guzman

Dulce has written for the Nashville Scene and Crucero News. A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, she received the John Seigenthaler Award for Outstanding Graduate in Print Journalism in 2016. Torres Guzman is a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. She enjoys the outdoors and is passionate about preserving the environment and environmental issues.