For 10 months, unaccompanied Afghan children in the United States have been longing for their families left in Afghanistan, with significant impact on their mental health and sense of stability. Some children have been in U.S. federal custody since they fled their homes during the U.S. withdrawal in August 2021. Currently, their families are expected to secure a passport in order to reunify with their children in the United States — an impossible requirement for many with the Taliban again in power in Afghanistan. Many people are in hiding or simply unable to fulfill this requirement, leaving their fate and unaccompanied children in the United States in a dangerous limbo.
The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) represents many Afghan children anxiously awaiting reunification with their parents and siblings. As Marie Silver, managing attorney of the Immigrant Children’s Protection Project at NIJC, explains: “Requiring the family members of our clients to have or obtain passports in order to be evacuated and reunified is an insurmountable barrier and a completely unreasonable requirement given the circumstances and conditions in Afghanistan.”
NIJC and more than 80 legal service providers, policy organizations, child welfare experts, and faith-based organizations serving and advocating on behalf of Afghan unaccompanied children and families who were directly impacted by the U.S. withdrawal are calling on the U.S. government to take a different approach. In a letter to President Biden and Department of State Secretary Blinken, these organizations have asked the Department of State to ensure that passport requirements do not prevent Afghan refugees, including parents and siblings of unaccompanied children, from seeking safety in the United States.
“Passports should never stand in the way of seeking refuge for anyone, let alone parents reuniting with their children,” the letter says.
Azadeh Erfani is a senior policy analyst for NIJC.