Afghanistan – Two years later, an immigration lawyer reflects


It has been two years since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. As an Afghan-American lawyer who practiced immigration law and was active in numerous humanitarian and women’s rights programs, this event changed my life. During the first month of the evacuation, I felt like I was working in a crisis center. I have received hundreds of distress calls and messages from Afghans across the country, asking for help. I had extended family members who lived and worked in Kabul and knew many of the women leaders personally, whom I had interviewed as a journalist or met at conferences or events.

Since then, I have gained experience filing humanitarian parole applications for Afghan nationals abroad, which were more like “mini-asylum” cases and became an exhausting legal and emotional journey with families. I also began representing clients in positive asylum cases and worked as a volunteer on numerous Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) cases and efforts to resettle Afghans at risk in third countries. I even traveled to Lisbon, Portugal, and Madrid, Spain, to apply for humanitarian visas for Afghans in danger, but met with limited success, helping five activist families resettle in these countries when hundreds of people needed urgent resettlement. I also spoke to every media outlet that could cover the story, including BBC World News, Al Jazeera, CBS News, Vice, And Fox News. I provided information to reporters on the challenges facing Afghan women and refugees, as well as barriers to legal immigration to the United States.

Through adversity, obstacles, and the emotional toll of the job, there have been moments of happiness where a small victory brought great joy: helping two children leave the home of an abusive father and get started. safety in the United States to find their mother; help a single Afghan woman and many SIV applicants and women leaders to access Kabul airport or take evacuation flights from Mazar-e-Sharif to the humanitarian city in the United Arab Emirates during the evacuation period chaotic; get conditional approval for a mother and her two young daughters under ten who were separated from their father during the evacuation and had to flee to two separate countries for a year and a half, then see the photo of them meeting their father at Dulles Airport; and obtain approvals for family immigration cases so that family members can legally enter the United States and start a new life. These victories got me through difficult days representing families in these extremely difficult situations of conflict, lack of employment, high visa and travel costs to get safely to third countries and long waiting times. Many days I served more as a therapist, counselor, or life coach to clients than as an advocate, as the mental and emotional toll led to anxiety, depression, and anger.

There are times when immigration is not just a path or opportunity to a better life, but is actually the only opportunity to survive. This is what Afghan nationals face today, especially those with immediate family members in the United States or those who have worked for the U.S. government. Two years later, the effort continues and remains as important as ever. I believe that the continued advocacy efforts of the AILA community to request faster processing of humanitarian parole cases for Afghan nationals, the establishment of a refugee support center in Pakistan or another neighboring country so that Thousands of P2 “priority refugees” can have their cases processed, and it is essential to create a simplified path to permanent residency for our Afghan allies. We are a powerful voice for immigrants and we must continue to speak on behalf of Afghans who desperately need our support.

AILA and other advocacy groups continue to push for legislative and policy changes – everyone, whether an immigration attorney or not, can help by participate in the Act on the Afghan Adjustment Act initiative today.

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