January 20, 2022

Warren and Colleagues Sound Alarm on High Denial Rates for At-Risk Afghans Applying for Humanitarian Parole into U.S.

“Given the dangerous situation in Afghanistan, the history of the conflict, and the risk that many of these Afghans face due to their support for the United States over the past two decades, mechanistically applying these restrictive standards is inhumane, cruel, and contradictory to U.S. commitments and interests.”

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and 14 of her Senate colleagues wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas to express concern over reports of high denial rates for Afghans applying for humanitarian parole into the United States. In the wake of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan and the use of an untenably high standard of proof to determine eligibility, including requiring written documentation of threats, the more than 35,000 Afghans who have applied for humanitarian parole are being denied access to safe haven in the United States at a time of grave need.


“While we have always maintained that proper vetting is an essential part of the humanitarian parole process, we are greatly concerned that the Administration is holding Afghan nationals seeking humanitarian parole to an unreasonably high standard, creating barriers to safe haven in the United States,” Senator Warren and her colleagues wrote. “These standards mean that the majority of potentially eligible Afghan applicants will likely be denied parole, as given the chaos surrounding the U.S. exit from Afghanistan in August, many have fled to third countries or do not have written documentation of threats from the Taliban.”

The senators noted that while the Secretary of Homeland Security has broad discretionary authority to grant humanitarian parole in individual cases of humanitarian benefit and for the public benefit, it is not fulfilling the Biden administration’s pledge to protect at-risk Afghans, including women leaders, activists, human rights defenders, and journalists, who were expressly advised to apply for humanitarian parole into the United States.

“This is not only a moral imperative, but critical for interests in being seen as a credible, honest, and loyal international partner, and essential for our national security,” Senator Warren and her colleagues argued.

The letter was also signed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), and Senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).

The senators asked Secretary Blinken and Secretary Mayorkas for responses to a set of questions about the denial and acceptance rate of applications for humanitarian parole, the standards being used to adjudicate cases, and how it is fulfilling its verbal promises to vulnerable Afghans.

Senator Warren’s work on Afghanistan issues includes a number of actions to assist vulnerable Afghans seeking relocation to safety. Among her recent efforts:

  • Last month, Senators Warren, Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Representative Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) wrote a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) expressing alarm about restrictive and inconsistent processes for Afghan humanitarian parole applicants.

  • In October, Senator Warren and her colleagues wrote a letter to DHS and USCIS calling for the waiver of fees for Afghan humanitarian parole applicants.

  • In September, Senator Warren and her colleagues wrote a letter to President Biden urging him to continue the safe relocation of Afghan evacuees, refugees, parolees, and Special Immigration Visa (SIV) applicants into the US.

  • In August, Senator Warren and her colleagues wrote a letter to the State Department and DHS calling for the issuance of approved employment and family based visas to Afghan nationals. 

  • In August, Senator Warren and her colleagues wrote a letter to President Biden calling for the expedited evacuation of SIV applicants from Afghanistan.

  • In June, Senator Warren joined Chairman Bob Menendez’s (D-N.J.) letter to DHS and the State Department calling for the expansion of eligibility for the SIV program and other ways to assist Afghan nationals who helped the United States.

  • This Congress, Senator Warren cosponsored the Afghan Allies Protection Act (S. 2032) and the HOPE for Afghan SIVs Act of 2021 (S. 2083).