Afghan family with visas held in California, attorneys are asking why
An Afghan family of five who traveled to the United States on special visas and were detained by immigration officials at the Los Angeles airport were released from custody on Monday, according to the USA government and the family's attorneys.
The family includes a father and mother and three children, ages 7, 6 and 8 months. The government still has not said why they were detained despite having Special Immigration Visas, which are hard to get and go to those who have worked for the USA government in Afghanistan or Iraq. The father - who was identified in court filings only as John Doe I, a man who served the USA military in Afghanistan for a decade - had been held in the Los Angeles County Jail since Saturday, said Becca Heller, the director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, which appeared on the petition as the family's "Next Friend".
"The betrayal of this family by the USA government shocks the conscience", the petition said, adding the father, who was not named, was employed by the US government in Afghanistan.
A federal judge had blocked authorities from removing the family from California and said a hearing would be held. Homeland Security will now be allowed to interview the family in Seattle to determine if they can remain in the U.S.
Attorneys said obtaining an SIV takes a substantial amount of time and vetting before arriving in the United States.
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Becca Heller, director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, declined to discuss the type of work the father did for the U.S. government but said he spent years working on USA military bases.
Talia Inlender, one of their lawyers, said immigration authorities had agreed to release them from custody on Monday. "They're putting their own lives and families at risk, and instead of providing them that welcome mat we are detaining them", she said. In addition to being detained, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has prevented attorneys from communicating with the family, according to the petition. She said the father was held at a detention center in Orange, California, while the mother and three children were held in downtown Los Angeles.
U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton, who is hearing the case in Santa Ana, issued the temporary restraining order over the weekend.
The family was released on parole, meaning that they are still vulnerable to sudden deportation.
"The mother can not read or speak English and her children are aged 7 years, 6 years, and 8 months old", according to the order.
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An ICE spokesman said the agency would fully comply with the judge's decision but declined to say why the family had been detained. "The balance of equities tip in their favor and the injunction is in the public interest", read the order.
Heller declined to discuss the type of work the father had done for the US government, but she said he spent years working on USA military bases.
In response to a question asking why the family was initially detained, Rusnok said that statement would be the only information provided at this time.
The case follows President Donald Trump's executive order barring people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. Afghanistan was not one of those countries.
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