by Jeremy Rud
It’s been four months since the US military withdrew from Afghanistan. Yet just four months after a twenty-year war, it seems that whatever concern the US government expressed for vulnerable Afghans faded as fast as the Taliban regained control of Kabul.
Human rights abuses have quickly mounted in Afghanistan. In mere weeks since their takeover, the Taliban has executed targeted killings of human rights defenders and surrendered soldiers, subjugated women and girls, and persecuted journalists, LGBTQ+ people, and anyone who protests these abuses, according to Amnesty International.
For the Afghan community in the Sacramento region, one of the largest in the US, distress and fear have intensified with reports of these abuses from loved ones still in Afghanistan. Local nonprofit advocacy organizations like NorCal Resist have been working without cease to help Afghan community members file Humanitarian Parole applications for those in danger under Taliban rule. Humanitarian Parole is the legal process that allows foreigners with an urgent humanitarian need to enter the US so they can safely apply for asylum or immigration visas.
In 2021, NorCal Resist, entirely staffed by volunteers, held six Humanitarian Parole clinics for families in region and helped file over 520 applications. It’s not just paperwork, though; applying for Humanitarian Parole is expensive. It costs $575 per person, including infants, and over the course of these clinics NorCal Resist has spent about $70,000 in application fees, funds that NorCal Resist largely raised themselves during the process.
Yet this momentous effort has not satisfied the pressing need that still exists in our community. At the first clinic NorCal Resist had to turn away 1,000 people due to a lack of resources to support so many applicants, and each day NorCal Resist receives more requests for help. Most tragically, NorCal Resist has received word that people in Afghanistan have been killed as they wait for the US government to process their applications.
Right now, more than ever, our Afghan neighbors urgently need our help to bring their families to safety. There are several things we can do immediately.
Donate money, time, or expertise: NorCal Resist desperately needs donations to help sponsor Humanitarian Parole applications and volunteers to help staff Humanitarian Parole clinics and provide other necessities to local families. You can donate at https://actionnetwork.org/fundraising/humanitarian-parole-applications. NorCal Resist also needs additional legal and technical support as well as housing and other supplies for local families.
Demand accountability of your elected officials: Local families who have applied for Humanitarian Parole have yet to see a single approved application. In response to this egregious injustice, NorCal Resist has launched a petition demanding that the Biden administration and members of Congress immediately address the ongoing human rights crisis by holding a Congressional hearing on the issue, coordinating directly with Afghan communities about this process, ensuring safe passage to the US for Afghans through the Humanitarian Parole process, and developing a new pathway to safety and relief specifically for Afghans. You can sign the petition at https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/demand-justice-for-afghans. NorCal Resist also needs your support in pressuring local authorities to act in support of our Afghan neighbors.
We cannot stress enough how urgent this need is. This is our community. These are the families of our neighbors and friends. Join us in securing the safety and justice they deserve. To get involved, visit www.norcalresist.org or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeremy A. Rud, on behalf of NorCal Resist
PhD Student, Department of Linguistics
University of California Davis