One year after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, Afghans in Charlotte are in legal limbo | Axios Charlotte

By Danielle Chemtob

Read more: Axios Charlotte

Tahira Askari and her family arrived at the chaotic scene at the Kabul airport last August, with a crowd of people surrounding the walls, and Taliban surrounding them.

The teenager heard gunshots and people calling out for help. She saw people being beaten and lying on the ground, injured.

They slept on the street outside the airport for two nights. Finally, after moving to another location, they managed to board a plane to Qatar, then Germany, then Washington, D.C., then Wisconsin, before they became among the over 1,700 Afghan refugees to arrive in North Carolina since last August.

Now 17, Askari lives in Concord now and dreams of studying journalism in the U.S. But like tens of thousands of Afghans now in the United States, she faces a ticking clock with her legal status. And she is bogged down in a years-long legal process to obtain citizenship.

What’s happening: The U.S. completed the withdrawal from Afghanistan a year ago today, Aug. 30, and has resettled more than 76,000 Afghans in the country.

Initially, North Carolina was set to resettle 1,200 refugees but that swelled to 1,730, according to the latest figures provided by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Charlotte agencies resettled 298.

Why it matters: In that year, Afghans in Charlotte and elsewhere have tried to build new lives for themselves, but their legal status is in limbo.

Context: Most Afghans have temporary status in the U.S. through humanitarian parole, which does not have a clear path to citizenship, and only lasts for two years typically.

Afghans can apply for asylum, and their cases will be expedited, receiving an interview within 45 days.

But it’s still a lengthy process that attorneys often assist with, which is a financial barrier for families that had to start over when they moved here. Plus, the nearest office handling the asylum interviews is in Virginia.

Once they receive asylum, they can apply for their green card after a year, and in four years they are eligible to apply for citizenship, says Rebekah Niblock, a staff attorney with the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy working for its Immigrant Justice Program.

While the asylum process is being sped up for Afghans compared to other refugees, it still means years of waiting and legal fees before they can become citizens.

Read more: One year after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, Afghans in Charlotte are in legal limbo – Axios Charlotte

Afghan refugees find ‘different world’ in Charlotte — and a new set of challenges | Charlotte Observer

BY DJ SIMMONS AND WILL WRIGHT

Read more: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article264677989.html#storylink=cpy

Americans watched the Afghan government fall from afar. But for Bahroz Mohmand, the moment marked the high-stakes culmination of a plan two years in the making to relocate his family.

“Because of me my whole family — my brothers, my sisters, my parents, my in-laws — most of them were at risk,” said Mohmand, who worked as a translator for U.S. Special Forces. “Working for the army in Afghanistan was not easy. You’re basically putting your family and their life in jeopardy by working for them.”

Now, safely in Charlotte, Mohmand fears for his family’s future. Their work permits are set to expire in 2023, and the uncertainty of that leaves him wondering what will happen.

“If their work permits expire, they’re, of course, not going to let them work anymore, and then they’ll have no income and (will) be put on the street,” he said.

Tahira Askira, Mohmand’s niece, recalled the tense days in Afghanistan before she was evacuated last year.

Askira said she was out grabbing groceries with her mother and sister when they heard the Taliban took over the country. Soon, the day descended into chaos. “People were shouting,” she said. “Everybody was looking for a way to get back home.”

Askira was fearful. She heard from adults what life was like under Taliban rule. For two days, they were stuck at home as Taliban fighters surveyed the streets, looking for people.

Mohmand feared the worst. Through his job as a translator, he was given a pathway to citizenship and emigrated to America in 2012 through the Special Immigration Visa program for Afghans.

The program, however, didn’t guarantee their families similar avenues. And interpreters’ jobs often placed targets on their backs, as well as their families, Mohmand said.

Mohmand also garnered a higher profile after being invited to the White House in 2018 for a Medal of Honor ceremony for a soldier he worked with. During the ceremony, he was individually recognized by then-President Donald Trump.

While the moment was one of his proudest, it also placed his family directly in danger.

As Askira fled the airport with her family, all she was able to grab was a backpack full of a few belongings. Meanwhile, Mohmand stayed on the phone with the family and used Google Maps from his home in Charlotte to help them navigate to and through the Kabul airport. Askira spent almost two nights sleeping outside the airport before they were able to get inside.

“I was running the operation basically,” Mohmand recalled. “I was telling them where to go.”

Now in America, they face hurdles applying for asylum.

GETTING SETTLED

Rebekah Niblock, a staff attorney at Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, said applying for asylum is one of the more complex areas of immigration law.

Refugee resettlement centers such as the Carolina Refugee Resettlement Agency contacted the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy to assist the influx of Afghan families. The center soon undertook the task of creating a program to link Afghan families to pro-bono attorneys who could help them with their asylum cases.

For Niblock, the case with Mohmand’s family is even more personal. Her father, a builder in Concord, has helped to house members of Mohmand’s family and is Askira’s neighbor.

”I feel the family is meant to be here,” Niblock said.

Niblock said a bill in Congress called the Afghan Adjustment Act could be key in helping these families have a direct path to citizenship. The bipartisan legislation was introduced in Congress in August and would allow Afghans with temporary status to apply for lawful permanent residence.

“There’s precedent for the bill,” Niblock said. “If you think about the Vietnamese coming to our shores, we passed similar legislation to allow them to have more of a direct path to residency and citizenship status.”

Asylum cases could take years, Niblock said. Currently a special provision allows Afghan refugees to have their cases heard within 45 days of filing.

“But that means you need to have everything ready,” Niblock said. “That entails a detailed statement, corroborating evidence, sitting down the client and asking very difficult and traumatizing questions.”

Read more at: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article264677989.html#storylink=cpy

Afghans in U.S. await stability and immigration answers | WFAE

By: Kayla Young

Read more: Afghans in U.S. await stability and immigration answers | WFAE 90.7 – Charlotte’s NPR News Source

A year after the fall of Kabul, Afghans who fled to the United States still face an uncertain future. Organizations such as the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy are now pushing for passage of the bipartisan Afghan Adjustment Act and a pathway to citizenship.

When Taliban insurgents took control of Afghanistan’s capital city, Kabul, in August of last year, Bahroz Mohmand watched the news in disbelief from the United States.

The 33-year-old interpreter never expected to see his home country revert to Taliban control.

“I was surprised. I was pissed off. I was sad,” Mohmand said. “It was a very difficult situation for me to basically calm myself down because I was worried about the family.”

Mohmand moved to the United States in 2012 under a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV), made possible by his work as a Dari and Pashto interpreter for the U.S. Army.

“I was born in war. I was raised in war. I never saw the good side of my country,” he said. “The only time that it was good was basically when from 2001, when the U.S. Army came until, you know, August 15 that everything collapsed under the Taliban regime.”

He is now a U.S. citizen. But for many of the 76,000 Afghans who fled to the U.S. in the past year, their immigration options are more limited. Many fear eventual deportation, including Mohmand’s niece, 17-year-old Tahira Askari.

Askari described the chaos of her evacuation in her native language, Dari. Mohmand interpreted.

“Everything was falling apart. People were running around stores. You could see families getting desperate, separated from each other. Everybody was heading towards the airport,” she said.

Askari and her family boarded an evacuation flight to Qatar, then Germany and eventually reunited with Mohmand in Charlotte.

Mohmand says for Askari, life under Taliban rule is a foreign concept.

Read more: Afghans in U.S. await stability and immigration answers | WFAE 90.7 – Charlotte’s NPR News Source

Tahira, a 17-year-old Afghan evacuee and Advocacy Center client, shares her journey to the US and what it is like to live in legal limbo | Spectrum News

When 17-year old Tahira Askari fled Taliban controlled Kabul last August, she did not know what life would be like for her in America. Tahira and her uncle, Bahroz Mohmand, a decorated Afghan interpreter who supported US military operations in Afghanistan for 10 years, joined Spectrum News on August 17, 2022. The two shared their harrowing journeys and the legal limbo Tahira and other Afghan evacuees now face as the Advocacy Center helps them apply for asylum. The two stressed the importance of the passage of bipartisan legislation known as the Afghan Adjustment Act. The legislation would provide a clear path to citizenship for Afghan evacuees, fulfilling a promise the United States pledged to keep them safe.

‘The least we can do.’ Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy hosts asylum application clinic

Charlotte NC-The Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s offices in east Charlotte were filled with lawyers and immigrants working together to file asylum applications on Saturday.

After people enter the country and are detained at the border, they generally have one year to file for asylum through an I-589 form. Though people can file the applications themselves without the aid of an attorney, legal assistance drastically improves their chances for success in immigration court.//accepted

This weekend’s clinic is the first of its kind in North Carolina, CCLA immigration attorney Rebekah Niblock said, though similar clinics have been held throughout the country.

Though the clinic’s participants won’t be legally represented by the CCLA in court, it’s a way for the agency, overburdened with requests, to expand its reach and serve more clients without having to turn anyone away.

“We can’t accept everyone,” Niblock said. “But the least we can do is help them get their applications out.”

Read more at: charlotteobserver.com

Thousands of immigrants seek asylum in Charlotte court. Nearly all will lose.

Charlotte N.C.- “Stand up and raise your right hand,” Judge William Riggs said.

He looks expectantly at a Central American man in front of him, who’s wearing headphones to listen to the Spanish interpreter to the left of Riggs. Before she finishes translating, Riggs raises his own right hand to demonstrate the action.

After the man takes an oath, a baby, in the wooden benches designated for observers, starts whining. The mother bounces her knees up and down, attempting to soothe the child.

The immigrant’s lawyer explains his claim, and at one point, Riggs rests his chin in his hand.

It’s about 9 a.m., and this is the first of dozens of asylum cases he’ll hear that day. Once the lawyers finish, he either assigns a later individual hearing or orders the respondent removed from the country.

All of this takes place in Charlotte’s immigration court, located in a mundane office building in east Charlotte. There isn’t a sign outside to identify it, and once inside, you have to take a rickety elevator to the fourth floor — just three floors above an immigration law firm.

That’s where anyone in the Carolinas has to go to claim asylum, and its four judges are some of the strictest in the country.


Read more at charlotteobserver.com