How to Leave Afghanistan in 4 Easy Steps
At PRI, we can’t claim to be foreign policy experts or military strategists, but as Californians, we do know something about bureaucratic nightmares. All we need look to is the scandal at the Employment Development Department, which paid out more than $30 billion in fraudulent claims (including $1 billion to prison inmates), yet left tens of thousands of people waiting months for checks or locked out of their accounts altogether.
As awful as this was for many Californians — it wasn’t life or death.
I googled the application for the now famous “SIVs”, the Special Immigrant Visas, that Afghans need to come to the U.S. As described by the U.S. State Department’s website: “This program, which offers visas up to fifty persons a year, remains active.” That’s right – 50 a year.
Following this is a warning in bold: “You should NOT make any travel arrangements, sell property, or give up employment until and unless you are issued a U.S. visa.” No mention of what to do if your life is threatened or if you’ve lost everything.
The website goes on to outline 4 steps:
Step 1: File a petition with the USCIS (it’s in Nebraska)
Step 2: Prepare for your Visa application
Step 3: The Visa interview
Step 4: Arrival in the United States
The SIV application Form-360, provided by the Department of Homeland Security on a different website, is 19 pages long with 15 parts — enough to leave PRI’s own Lance Izumi’s head swimming, even with his three degrees. “Getting one [SIV],” reports PBS’s Jane Ferguson, “for years has been an infuriatingly slow and complex process.”
And what should you do if you’ve filed Form-360 and haven’t heard back? (By the way, Form-360 is just one of the required forms.) The website’s advice is to “email NVC at [email protected] or call 1-603-334-0828 and provide your USCIS receipt number, full name, and date of birth. Customer Service Representatives at NVC are available from 7:30 a.m. to midnight (EST). The hours for congressional inquiries are from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (EST).”
Each morning, reports Ferguson from Kabul airport, “brings with it more people and more desperate pleas to be allowed in. Every day, thousands of men and women clutching pieces of paper, military ID cards, even old photographs, search for someone to talk to, an immigration official, anyone with answers….”
Americans, of course, should be given priority in evacuating Afghanistan. But even this is going poorly, despite what we hear from the White House. When pressed on this by Fox News reporter Peter Doocy, Press Secretary Jen Psaki asked him to provide her with the contact information of the American who she maintained is not stranded. “Fatima” (not her real name) has Fox fighting for her, but there are thousands who aren’t so well-connected.
The reality, Ferguson goes on, is that for many, it is too late: “As the Taliban took over Kabul…many were left unprepared, not least of all the U.S. government.”
But what can we expect from a government that seems to have lost its way? From Washington, D.C. to Sacramento, our leaders are distracted with everything from cultivating “wokeness” in warriors to mandating comfortable digs for hens, calves, and pigs. The result? A leadership that has put thousands in harm’s way.
Rowena Itchon is senior vice president of the Pacific Research Institute.