Cedar Rapids nonprofit assists Afghan refugees in US under protected status

Published: Mar. 23, 2022 at 5:34 AM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The Catherine McAuley Center has been working to house, educate, and find work for 250 refugees from Afghanistan who fled their homes last year when the Taliban took over the government.

Now, those refugees are in the U.S. under a new status thanks to a change granted by the Department of Homeland Security. These refugees changed from what’s called Parole Status to Temporary Protected Status, or TPS. This allows the refugees to work, travel, and apply for more rights without fear of deportation.

“I finally have a place that I can call home,” said one Afghan refugee who doesn’t want to be identified.

This man left his home with just his family and the clothes on his back. He landed in Cedar Rapids on November 15.

“My family’s lives were in danger because I was involved with many projects that were funded by the U.S.,” he said.

He didn’t know what the process of coming to the U.S. would initial, but the Biden Administration cleared up some of the ambiguity by giving refugees TPS.

“It’s a temporary status that says they can stay here because we recognize it’s not safe for you to go home,” said Catherine McAuley Center Director of Refugees and Immigrant Services, Sara Zejnic.

That means refugees that worked for the U.S. in the past won’t have to return to Afghanistan, where their lives could be at risk. This TPS resignation also relieves some of the backlog, with 76,000 refugees arriving suddenly.

“Within the first year, they would have to apply for asylum, which is an extremely lengthy and arduous process and takes a lot of time,” she said. “It also takes a lot of manpower to prove fear of persecution.”

The protection lifts some of the stress of refugees as they continue to deal with the reality that many had to leave relatives behind.

“Ten days ago, the Taliban was in my house,” said the man. “I was scared they were going to hurt my brother or my father, who live there.”

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