DES MOINES, Iowa — A newly formed coalition called Afghan Legal League of Iowa (ALL Iowa) aims to better help Afghan evacuees get permanent legal status.
The coalition was formed through a collaboration between the University of Iowa College of Law's Legal Clinic and Center for Human Rights, Drake Refugee Clinic and Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice.
Jody Mashek, the co-legal director at Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice, said the coalition was formed "to fill in some service gaps and provide legal services to Afghan evacuees in our community."
The coalition is funded through a grant from the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services.
Mashek noted most of the evacuees came over on humanitarian parole and not refugee status. The former only lasts for two years.
Mashek said a lot of the evacuees in the area only have 10 to 11 months before their humanitarian parole status ends. However, applying for a new status like asylum or an immigrant visa could take a while, especially without help.
That's where the grant comes in. The funding allows Iowa MMJ to hire two employees dedicated to helping Afghan evacuees at their office.
It will also help other partners in the coalition like Drake Law start a virtual help desk.
"They will have access to information in their first language, helping them understand about what are the different options and what might you qualify for," Mashek said.
She also noted the help the coalition will now be able to offer is nice, but it's not enough.
"It's exciting to be a part of it [but] we know the need is still greater than the resources that are currently available," Mashek said.
The coalition doesn't have a timeline for when the new employees will be hired or when the virtual help desk will be implemented, but they're hoping it's soon.