An interpreter who aided U.S. troops in Afghanistan who had been detained by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agency at Houston’s international airport has been released from custody, according to RAICES, who led the fight for his release.
As ThinkProgress reported last week, Mohammad Asif Motawakil and his family were traveling to the United States, having been granted special immigrant visas under the Afghan Allies Protection Act, which provides special status to Afghans who assisted the U.S. military despite the overwhelming danger they put themselves in doing so.
Motawakil and his family boarded a plane for the United States without incident only to discover upon their arrival that that their visas had been revoked, leading to their detention and the prospect of deportation. (Lawyers for Motawakil theorize that the accidental unsealing of documents, containing their medical records, might have contributed to their plight.)
Thanks to pressure from RAICES, a non-profit organization which provides legal services to immigrants in Texas, and four Democratic lawmakers — Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), Rep. Al Green (D-Texas), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), and Rep. Joaquín Castro — Motawakil’s wife and family were paroled from custody. But Motawakil’s release was not secured until Thursday of last week.
UPDATE: Thanks to the determination of @RAICESTEXAS & congressional inquiries, Mohasif was freed, his family reunited, & visas reinstated.
It should not take so much effort to ensure fair treatment of those who risked their lives to help American troops.https://t.co/34D4s7PtgM
— Lloyd Doggett (@RepLloydDoggett) January 20, 2019
In a statement, RAICES wrote:
“It’s shocking to see the way this administration is treating those who have supported our troops,” said Erika Andiola, chief advocacy officer for RAICES. “Of course, it’s not only veterans who are being attacked by our immigration system: We’ve seen sponsors deported when they pick up children from detention centers, children die in immigration custody, and migrants tear-gassed across the border. The administration is engaged in a systematic attack on all who it thinks do not belong in this country, and this is just the latest evidence of that.”
Like all foreign national who assist the American military as interpreters, Motawakil underwent vigorous vetting from U.S. authorities in a process that can often take years to complete.
To secure special immigration status, Motawakil was required to obtain letters of support from U.S. officials and demonstrate that the his life and the lives of his family members would have been in grave danger had they remained in Afghanistan.