As Biden administration fails Afghan allies, more make perilous trip to US southern border

Desperate to escape the Taliban’s tyranny, Afghans have resorted to illegal methods of border crossing, mostly into neighboring countries.

Now, however, a new smuggling route into the United States appears to be gaining popularity. It’s not surprising. Up to 435,000 US allies and family members remain mired in processing backlogs for legal pathways to the US According to multiple sources in the evacuation community, Afghans are now obtaining Brazilian humanitarian visas and pursuing dangerous and expensive travel to the Mexican border to request asylum in the US

Customs and Border Protection has provided information that demonstrates the growth of this mode of ingress. In the fiscal year 2021, the Border Patrol and Office of Field Operations encountered 36 Afghans at the southwest border. But in the first 10 months of the fiscal year 2022, encounters rose more than 1,000% to 420. Nearly half of these encounters occurred this June (85) and July (124), the last month for which data are available.

There is little additional information about Afghans accessing the US through the southwestern border. US Citizenship and Immigration Services did not respond to questions about what percentage of Afghans who have reached the border were previously trying to pursue a legal pathway to the US, such as a special immigrant visa, a referral to the US Refugee Admissions Program, or humanitarian parole. USCIS did state that Afghans with family members in the US with citizenship, legal permanent residence, or refugee or asylum status may be able to remain in the country and achieve legal permanent resident status through Form I-130. Only a portion of the Afghans who have successfully crossed into the US have family here. The remainder of them have been filed for asylum.

The route to America is perilous.

Navigating territory controlled by drug cartels is a key concern. One American volunteer supporting legal Afghan evacuations to the US told me that people offering secure passage to Mexico from Brazil are charging Afghans $15,000 per person, including children. Ben Owen of the nonprofit group Flanders Fields is concerned. He has been watching the influx of Afghans crossing the border with consternation. Owen says that Afghans pursuing an SIV “won’t risk the illegal route generally, because it will end that chance for them.” He added that this means Afghans with no admissibility to the US “are coming here and getting chances at asylum while SIV applicants are getting murdered.” He considers this further evidence that the “system is … stacked against our staunchest allies downrange.”

As more Afghans successfully navigate the perilous route from Brazil to Mexico, smuggling will gain popularity among Afghans facing grievous Taliban oppression . The US should discourage this dangerous method of entry and boost support for allies living under duress as they await legal entry to the US

Beth Bailey (@BWBailey85) is a freelance writer from the Detroit area.

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