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An Afghan Family, With Visas in Hand, Is Detained

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Topic: An Afghan Family, With Visas in Hand, Is Detained
Posted By: AfghanistanNews
Subject: An Afghan Family, With Visas in Hand, Is Detained
Date Posted: 05-Mar-2017 at 10:46pm

An Afghan Family, With Visas in Hand, Is Detained in Los Angeles

An Afghan family of five that had received approval to move to the United States based on the father’s work for the American government has been detained for more than two days after flying into Los Angeles International Airport, a legal advocacy group said in court documents filed on Saturday.

A federal judge in Los Angeles issued on Saturday evening a temporary restraining order to prevent the mother and children from being transferred out of the state. The order, by Judge Josephine L. Staton of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, arrived as they were about to be put on a plane to Texas, most likely bound for a family detention center there, lawyers said.

The scene at the airport was “chaotic, panicked; it was a mess,” said Lali Madduri, a lawyer with the firm Gibson Dunn, which is representing the family pro bono. “The whole time the children are crying, the woman is crying. They can’t understand what’s going on.”

The father had arrived on Thursday with his wife and three children, ages 7, 6 and 8 months, on Special Immigrant Visas, according to the lawyers’ habeas corpus petition filed on Saturday in Federal District Court in Los Angeles. Those visas were created by Congress for citizens in Iraq and Afghanistan who have helped the United States military or government as drivers, interpreters or in other jobs — work that often makes them targets in their home countries.

But instead of being allowed to enter the United States, the family has been detained, according to the court papers.

“I’ve never, ever heard of this happening,” said Becca Heller, the director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, or IRAP, which filed the petition. “They go through so many layers of security clearance, including one right before they get on the plane.”

Calling the detention “egregious, inhumane and unconstitutional,” the group petitioned the court to release the family, whose names were not publicly revealed. The judge did not order the family be released, but set a hearing in the case for Monday.

According to Ms. Heller, the father was being held Saturday night at a men’s immigration detention facility in Orange County, Calif. His wife and children were taken to a detention center in downtown Los Angeles.

Asked for comment on the case, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement said only that the agency “will fully comply with the March 4 judicial order and all other legal requirements.”

The case was the latest instance of what advocates say has been increased scrutiny at American airports since President Trump took office, especially after his January executive order temporarily banning travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries. A federal court halted that order, but the administration has said it will issue a revised version. Afghanistan was not one of the seven countries in the original ban.

Even so, customs agents at airports have been using their power to detain passengers, demand passwords for smartphones to search their contents and to even cancel visas. Mem Fox, a best-selling children’s book author from Australia, described being held for questioning — also at Los Angeles International Airport — for several hours with no access to water or a bathroom, and was prohibited from using her cellphone.

Henry Rousso, a prominent French historian of the Holocaust, said he was detained at an airport in Houston for more than 10 hours and was threatened with deportation when he arrived to give the keynote address at a conference at Texas A&M University.

It was unclear exactly how the Afghan man who was detained had helped the United States, but IRAP wrote in the court petition that “his service put not only his own life, but also the lives of his wife and three small children, at risk.”

Kerry Arndt, a spokeswoman for Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington State, where the family was going to settle, said the senator’s office was trying to get information from the Department of Homeland Security, but was “very frustrated from the lack of communication and information that we’re getting.”" rel="nofollow -

Posted By: AfghanistanNews
Date Posted: 06-Mar-2017 at 7:35pm

Afghan family of 5 to be released after being detained with visas in Los Angeles

An Afghan family detained in Los Angeles after traveling to the city on special immigrant visas will be released, their lawyers stated Monday.

U.S. immigration officials detained the mother, father, and their three children - ages 8 months old and 6 and 7 years old - when they arrived at the Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday.

The family landed at LAX where they were set to board their connecting flight to Seattle, where they intend to resettle.

Attorneys for the family filed numerous petitions demanding their release since they said the family had been granted the special visas after the father worked for the U.S. military in Afghanistan.

"I think you have a family here whose father spent eight years risking his life and the life of his family and young children to serve the U.S. government. These are exactly the types of people that we should be protecting," attorney Daniele Katzir said.

U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton issued a temporary restraining order late Saturday banning the government from removing the family from California.

The order came within an hour of a flight to Texas that the government had planned to place the mother and children on, the judge said, according to a copy of the order obtained by The Associated Press.

While the family will be released, their attorneys said the government hasn't stated whether it will honor the special visas given to them.

The family, who is not being identified for their safety, will be allowed to remain in the country in the meantime and will be subject to an immigration review at a later date, according to the family's attorneys.

The case arrived just days before President Donald Trump unveiled his new travel ban Monday morning. It replaced his controversial order which banned refugees and immigrants from seven-predominantly Muslim countries. Afghanistan was not one of those countries." rel="nofollow -

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