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Afghan evacuees will get a fast-tracked asylum process under a new settlement agreement

A federal judge in California has greenlita settlement between the U.S. government and a group of Afghan evacuees stuck in legal limbo. Under the agreement, thousands of evacuees will have their asylum process expedited. 

It’s been more than two years now since tens of thousands of Afghans who worked alongside U.S. forces were evacuated from their country. But at least 20,000 are still waiting to find out whether or not they’ll be given asylum.

Afghan asylum applications were supposed to be fast-tracked at Citizenship and Immigration Services under a congressional mandate that stipulated case decisions should not exceeded the 150 days. But a years-long backlog in visa and other processing is stalling that effort. Meanwhile, an effort to create a pathway to citizenship for evacuees is stalled in Congress.

Seven Afghans with pending cases filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security earlier this year.

On Monday, District Judge Jon Tigar granted approval for the settlement agreement proposed by the parties last week.

Under the new agreement, Citizenship and Immigration Services is supposed to close the outstanding asylum cases within a series of rolling deadlines and report back progress.

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Alisa Reznick is a senior field correspondent covering stories across southern Arizona and the borderlands for the Tucson bureau of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk.