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602 Days Later...

December 27, 2023 (2 min read)

Mona Iman, Robyn Barnard, Shala Gafary, Human Rights First, Dec. 22, 2023

"Mohammad is an Afghan citizen of the Hazara ethnic minority and Shi’a religion, who fled Afghanistan after repeated threats to his life following the Taliban’s consolidation of power in 2021. He escaped by traveling through the treacherous and only available route to the United States to seek asylum.

In Afghanistan, Mohammad was a professor with a history of advocacy for women’s rights and for victims of the Taliban and other extremist groups. Mohammad’s wife, who worked for a U.S. government-funded nonprofit organization in Afghanistan. Due to her work, she has an initially approved Special Immigrant Visa application that also gives Mohammad a path to permanent residence in the United States.

Despite this, Mohammad was criminally prosecuted for entering the United States to seek asylum.  He spent 7 months in prison before he was transferred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody, where he could only then begin to pursue his asylum claim. ICE repeatedly denied Mohammad’s release into the community despite his having permanent resident family in the United States ready to sponsor and receive him.

Mohammad was forced to undergo his asylum case without an attorney while detained in immigration jail. After being held for one year, an immigration judge denied Mohammad’s asylum claims despite extensive evidence that he survived multiple attacks on his life by the Taliban and ISIS-K, and that the Taliban continue to search for him. The judge also dismissed irrefutable evidence of the significant risk he would face due to his ethnic and religious minority status if forced to return to Afghanistan, and the escalating violence imposed by the Taliban. ...

Mohammad’s journey has been long – he traveled from Afghanistan to South America, through the Darien Gap to the border, to ICE detention, and more – but it has come to a successful conclusion.

Our attorneys were successful in stopping the Department of Homeland Security from deporting Mohammad back to Afghanistan. We filed a Motion to Reopen Mohammad’s case and then filed a new asylum application. We made multiple parole requests to get Mohammad released. We filed for Temporary Protected Status for Mohammad, arguing that it is the U.S. government’s long-standing policy to release any individual who is prima facie eligible for TPS. We contacted government officials and advocated for Mohammad’s release for his sake and for his family — two small children and his wife, whose application through the Special Immigrant Visa program has long been approved. Our request to have his TPS application expedited was denied. 

With our partners at the law firm of Akin LLP, we prepared Mohammad for his December 13 Individual hearing before a new judge in Dallas Immigration Court. We gathered additional evidence, spoke with eyewitnesses, consulted with an expert, and filed all necessary filings.

Finally, on December 20, 2023, 602 days after he first arrived in the United States, Mohammad was granted asylum. The immigration judge found that Mohammad had suffered persecution due to his political opinions and ethnicity.

Mohammad was released from detention on December 22, 2023, and will soon reunite with his niece in Michigan. Human Rights First and Akin LLP will now work to reunite Mohammad with his wife and children and help him to pursue a dignified life in the relative safety of the United States."