Children in Nashville during a recent rally. Memphis has received about 36 Afghan refugees while Nashville has received around 300. (Photo: John Partipilo)
Afghan refugees who fled their home country under Taliban rule still face deportation, said lawyers during a Shelby County Commission meeting.
On Wednesday, members of the Community Legal Center met with commissioners at a committee meeting to discuss the funds they need to provide legal services to 36 Afghan refugees resettling in Memphis.
After the collapse of the Afghan government, the Biden administration sought to evacuate as many Afghans from the country as possible. Many held U.S citizenship and others had aided the U.S. military as translators and guides. Because of this, they and their families required swift evacuations as they faced threats from Taliban forces.
The administration was able to expedite their arrival from military bases in other countries to the United States by labeling the Afghan families as parolees, shortening the refugee process from decades into months.
Over the last few months, Afghan families have arrived in Tennessee to start their new lives. Nashville received more than 300 Afghans while Memphis received 36 Afghans.
While other organizations such as World Relief Memphis helped families with living essentials, such as housing, refugees also faced the daunting task of procuring permanent legal status.
As parolees, they were temporarily shielded from deportation for two years and could apply to work in the country. They initially were ineligible for federally-funded benefits, such as medicaid, but the U.S. Congress later passed the Afghanistan Supplemental Appropriation Act to make benefits available to Afghan parolees.
They now have a year to apply for asylum status, which will in turn allow them to receive a green card, or permanent residency. This process can take years to complete.
For this reason, the Community Legal Center is seeking $250,000 in order to provide 36 Afghan parolees and their families with legal assistance.
“These Afghans worked as translators, guides and other capacities to help support U.S. and Nato troops. Their actions have now put[ them] and their families in danger and made it unsafe for them to stay in Afghanistan,” said Diana Combs, director of the Community Legal Center.
Commissioners voted to recommend the resolution’s passage during the Shelby County full commission meeting on Dec. 6.
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