Visa-Less Afghans Get Fee Exemptions and Jump the Processing Line

USCIS doling out ‘free’ immigration benefits despite being underwater financially

By Robert Law on November 10, 2021

In the immediate aftermath of the Biden administration’s botched military withdrawal from Afghanistan, it flew tens of thousands of un-vetted, visa-less Afghans into our country. Supportive media told the American people that these Afghans are “refugees” or heroic interpreters eligible for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs), but that largely was untrue. Rather than admitting its errors and figuring out how to settle these Afghans in countries closer to their homeland, the Biden administration continues to take steps to allow them to remain in the United States.

It started with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’s unlawful use of categorical parole to allow the Afghans into the country. By virtue of being “parolees”, they all immediately became eligible for work permits (employment authorization documents, or EADs). As I scooped back on September 9, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) was unable to handle the dual adjudicative burdens of vetting the Afghans and processing the EAD applications, so the Biden political appointees ordered adjudicators to issue work permits first and “resolve” vetting issues later. As a direct result of this policy, an 18-year-old girl was raped by an Afghan parolee and sources told me that USCIS is allowing the accused to keep his work permit while the charges are pending.

Now, DHS wants to ensure that every visa-less Afghan who does not already have an EAD gets one “for free”, and as quickly as possible. In a November 8 press release, DHS announced that all 70,000 Afghan parolees will receive a fee exemption, meaning paying nothing, for their initial work permit and biometric services, and “streamlined processing” of the application, meaning they will jump to the front of the line. The same preferential treatment applies to the smaller number of Afghans who actually qualify for SIVs.

The two-sentence quote attributed to Secretary Mayorkas reveals that the Biden administration has no intention of removing the significant number of Afghans who do not qualify for SIV or asylum (now that they’re physically in the U.S.). Mayorkas states in the press release:

By providing these evacuees with access to streamlined processing and fee exemptions, we will open doors of opportunity for our Afghan allies and help them begin to rebuild their lives in communities across our country more quickly. These actions demonstrate our ongoing commitment to Afghan nationals who provided valuable assistance to the United States over the past two decades as well as other Afghans at risk.

Parsing the first sentence exposes that the Afghans are largely not refugees or SIVs by the use of “evacuees” to describe this population. The same sentence also shows the Biden administration’s desire to keep these visa-less Afghans permanently in the U.S. by framing this decision as allowing them to “rebuild their lives” in our country. The second sentence’s use of “Afghan nationals who provided valuable assistance” in the war is a red herring to deceive the public that most fall under the sentence’s catch-all “other Afghans at risk”.

Unlike most of the federal government, USCIS is funded by the fees paid by those engaged in our immigration system for the processing of applications and petitions. There is no such thing as a “free” adjudication; rather, it is a cost-shifting mechanism that results in certain immigration benefits being overcharged to offset the lost revenue from the benefits being offered below the true cost of adjudicative recovery — i.e., subsidized.

In the short term, these un-vetted, visa-less Afghans will receive work permits at no out-of-pocket cost before being properly vetted and ahead of other applicants and petitioners who already filed for various immigration benefits or relief. Processing times for others will increase. Inevitably, more Americans will be the victims of crime committed by some of these Afghans and the Biden administration will make no effort to deport any of them back to Afghanistan or any other country. I still stand by my long-term prediction published in Newsweek in September that before the conclusion of the Biden administration, Afghanistan will receive a Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation, essentially ensuring this population remains indefinitely in the country.