The clinic is one of several planned through November to support Afghans who’ve arrived in the Atlanta area since the Taliban takeover in August 2021. The IRC-Atlanta is supporting at least 800 Afghans who were granted humanitarian parole - a status that guarantees them protection from deportation for two years and the ability to apply for a work permit. GAIN and the IRC are working with Afghan parolees to help them figure out their long term immigration options after the parole period is up.
“People have to either qualify for special immigrant visas or asylum. And we're finding that for the majority of the parolees, the only option is asylum,” said Alpa Amin, Executive Director of GAIN. She said that generally, those filing for asylum have to apply within one year of arrival.
For some, the deadline for submitting their asylum application could be as early as this fall.
Filing an asylum application isn’t straightforward. It requires gathering various forms of documentation, writing an affidavit, and eventually, doing an interview that could be anywhere from four to six hours long, said Amin.
“It can be an intimidating process for someone who doesn't speak the language and doesn't have legal representation. A lot of parolees will end up having to go through this process alone because we don't have enough attorneys to support every single person who's filing," said Amin.
There are a limited number of organizations, and lawyers, in Georgia that specialize in asylum law. Those that exist, have limited capacity since they're managing existing caseloads, said Amin. So ensuring that parolees are supported requires a different approach. "We're trying to be creative...we're all stepping up to help in various ways,” said Amin. "We're using models of in person or remote clinics, contracting with private immigration attorneys, and trying to increase our staff capacity so that we can take cases in house. It's a multi-pronged approach."
The pro se asylum clinics are part of that multi pronged approach. They're set up to guide people on how to proceed with their asylum case themselves, without a lawyer. They've held three so far - the one in June will be the fourth. The clinics give those filing for asylum a chance to connect with attorneys, legal staff, and volunteers who help walk them through the process of filing.
“We get materials, we show them how to do the work. And then they’re partnered up with an interpreter. And there are, of course, other volunteers that are helping with just coordinating transportation and all kinds of things. So it's a pretty big endeavor,” said Amin.