As of last week, the State Department said that 62,000 Afghan applicants for U.S. visas remain in Afghanistan.

As they reckon with Taliban violence, economic decline, and a devastating food crisis, around 33,000 Afghans have undergone sufficient vetting that they "could be eligible for immediate evacuation." The remaining 29,000, likely among the 30,000 Afghan applicants for humanitarian parole visas, are hampered by slow processing speeds for determination and vetting.

This situation hearkens back to the bureaucratic heel-dragging that haunts the State Department’s Special Immigrant Visa program. Feroza, whose name has been changed for her protection, is no longer eligible for an SIV, as she watched the Taliban kill her SIV applicant husband several weeks ago. The State Department did not respond to questions about visa eligibility for individuals like Feroza, though a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services official tells me being a family member of an SIV applicant is one of several "strong, positive factors" pointing to provision of a humanitarian parole visa.

Unfortunately, USCIS has created new barriers to granting humanitarian parole visas, with demands that some applicants provide "third party evidence … documenting threats or risks of serious harm." As administration officials told Axios, humanitarian parole is only intended "for people in extreme circumstances."

But this seems an apt description of the circumstances facing a 22-year-old Hazara policewoman who shuttles between freezing abandoned buildings to protect her family members from Taliban reprisals, or the former National Directorate of Security employee who hunkers down inside a friend's closed business every day in case his in-laws make good on threats to turn him in to the Taliban.

Last week, the U.N. deputy commissioner for human rights said that 72 extrajudicial killings of former Afghan security personnel have been "attributed to the Taliban." As the country is in the grips of inflation and a food crisis, Taliban oversight of some international aid distribution could render it incredibly dangerous for former government personnel or activists to seek assistance. Despite these conditions, a USCIS official tells me the agency is "prioritizing the parole applications for Afghan nationals outside of Afghanistan."

Because the U.S. Embassy in Kabul has suspended operations, even a determination of visa eligibility is daunting for applicants. Processing and vetting must take place in a U.S. embassy, which requires endangered Afghans to travel through Taliban checkpoints and across borders, some of which are closed. USCIS did not respond to a question about expectations for Afghans to undertake such a dangerous journey. A State Department official tells me they are "working to find ways to facilitate travel for those who do not have all the required documentation."

Since late September, the Washington Post reports that only around 3,000 Afghans have successfully been evacuated from Afghanistan. Now, winter conditions make evacuation flights nearly impossible. Though not corroborated elsewhere, Pakistan Aviation reports that as of Dec. 12, the Taliban had stopped evacuation flights altogether, likely in an effort to pressure the international community into releasing Afghanistan’s frozen financial holdings.

In response to questions about the myriad threats to visa applicants, the State Department told me it "encourage[s] Afghanistan’s neighbors to allow entry for Afghans and coordinate with humanitarian international organizations to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghans in need" and requests that states "uphold their respective obligations related to Afghan refugees or asylum seekers."

The onus, however, is on the State Department and USCIS to focus on fulfilling promises made to Afghan allies. Those who now face death because they placed their trust in the United States.

Beth Bailey (@BWBailey85) is a freelance writer from the Detroit area.