On August 15, 2021, the Taliban overthrew the Afghan government shortly after the United States announced it would withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. In the weeks that followed, the US government evacuated over 120,000 US citizens and Afghan allies from Afghanistan, and the United States welcomed 76,000 Afghans as refugees, most as humanitarian parolees. While many Afghans are now safe in the United States, thousands more are waiting for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Agency (USCIS) to review their applications for humanitarian parole.
In this episode, co-host and Partner John Walsh is joined by Senior Associate Alexandra Stanley to hear from Mr. Ahmed, an Afghan refugee who fled Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover. Mr. Ahmed worked as a translator for the U.S. military in Afghanistan beginning in 2011, and as a result, his life was put in immediate danger when the Taliban took over the country in 2021. Alexandra Stanley is a senior associate who focuses her practice on complex securities enforcement matters and investigations and has dedicated her pro bono practice to assisting Afghan refugees applying for humanitarian parole.
Today, Mr. Ahmed shares the story of his flight from Afghanistan and his experience living through the Taliban takeover. Walsh and Stanley speak with Mr. Ahmed about his heroic endeavors to help 109 refugees escape Afghanistan, his work with WilmerHale to help other Afghans apply for humanitarian parole, and the work that is still to be done.
As of June 2, 2022, USCIS has only approved 297 humanitarian parole applications, while over 90% of reviewed applications have been denied. These applications can take more than a year to be reviewed, leaving families to continue hiding from the Taliban in Afghanistan or in neighboring countries, hoping the United States will grant them a safe place to restart their lives. Mr. Ahmed reminds listeners of the thousands of other refugees, many of whom worked shoulder to shoulder with the U.S. government, who remain in peril.