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Afghan families settling in Charlottesville trying to get others to safety

Published: Dec. 13, 2021 at 2:17 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Hundreds of families from Afghanistan have fled from the Taliban and arrived in Charlottesville. They are searching for housing, jobs, and ways to start their new life, but now a big concern is getting the rest of their family safely to the United States.

Humanitarian parole allows for those in Afghanistan who are afraid for their safety to apply to come to the U.S. Family members who are already here can apply for them, but it is not simple.

“I want to bring them here to have a safe life - and everybody deserves it - and they’re my family members,” Hamidullah Ibrahimkhail said. “I’m worried about them.”

Ibrahimkhail came to Charlottesville eight years ago on a Special Immigrant Visa after serving with U.S. Special Forces. He is applying for humanitarian parole for four of his family members still stranded in Afghanistan.

“I have moved them from the village,” Ibrahimkhail said. “My family and my parents were there. I moved them because I’m really worried about their safety there.”

His plan is to sponsor his family, and Ibrahimkhail says he submitted pages of forms back in September. All he has heard is that U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services received the application.

“That’s all, and we haven’t received anything else,” Ibrahimkhail said.

Not only does a sponsor’s income need to be a certain level to be approved, but the fee to apply is $575 per person.

“For example, if you want to apply for 10 members of your family, if you calculate like $575 for 10 people, it’s going to be a lot,” Ibrahimkhail said.

There is a fee waiver option: “It depends on your income, but it is a little bit tricky. If you are able to sponsor somebody, and if you have that amount of income that you can sponsor somebody, you’re not going to be able to be approved for that fee waiver application,” Ibrahimkhail said.

Ibrahamkhail has also helped many new Afghan families in Charlottesville apply to get their own loved ones to safety.

“I have helped at least 50 families here to apply for their families, and because this application is a little bit complicated, if you do not have your English at a certain level, because they are asking very tricky questions on that,” Ibrahimkhail said.

Those families have not heard back either.

“We initially thought there would be about 60,000 of these individuals. Frankly, there has been a lot more because that individual who may have been a translator is not only showing up with their immediate family, but some of their extended family and that is proving to be a bit more of a challenge,” Senator Mark Warner said.

NBC29 asked the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services about all of this. It responded, saying, “USCIS is working to quickly increase processing of humanitarian parole requests, having increased the number of officers working on parole cases nearly five-fold to 44 adjudicators who are trained to assist with the surge in requests for humanitarian parole.”

“I really appreciate the government of the United States, that they have processed this program and they put this program there. Now that we are able to at least apply, and I hope this process gets quicker, and people could bring their family members out,” Ibrahimkhail said.

The USCIS says the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan is shut down so those who need to be screened and vetted for humanitarian parole must travel to a third country.

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