Criminal charges have been dropped against an Afghan national who served in the US military in Afghanistan and was arrested after fleeing to the US by crossing the southern border with Mexico.
Abdul Wasi Safiknown as Wasi, served with US special operations forces in Afghanistan as an Afghan special forces soldier and fled the country after the US withdrawal was completed in August 2021. He went to the United States on his own and in September 2022 he was detained after he entered the southern border from Mexico.
Safi’s case has attracted the attention of veterans groups and US lawmakers who have pushed for the charges to be dropped and the Biden administration taking action and granting him the right to stay in the land. country while awaiting a hearing on his asylum claim.
Safi’s immigration attorney, Jennifer Cervantes, told CNN he intended to apply for asylum, but was unfamiliar with the reporting requirements and had not been to an established port of entry.
“He didn’t understand that he needed to go to the port of entry to apply for asylum, otherwise the case would be very different,” Cervantes said Wednesday. “Wasi wasn’t from the southern border, he wasn’t from Latin America, and so he didn’t really know how to present himself for asylum… He thought he needed to apply as soon as he found CBP ( Customs and Border Protection). ) to give him his documents, and that’s exactly what he did.”
Safi was ultimately charged with failing to comply with reporting requirements, but court records show the charge was dismissed by a Texas judge on Monday.
The news was announced Tuesday night by Democratic Representative Sheila Jackson Lee.
“Mr. Safi came across Rio Grande with a group of migrants after being beaten up in another country and desperately sought to come to America to see freedom,” said Jackson Lee. said in a statement on Tuesday. “Unfortunately, his entry was not a port of entry and he Safi has been detained ever since in detention facilities. What has happened over the past few weeks is a strategic and powerful effort to bring all the agencies together to make the right decision for Mr. Safi.”
Jackson Lee played a role in helping to drop the charges by reaching out to leaders of US agencies to talk about Safi’s status as an Afghan soldier and as an individual who worked. along with US forces, she told CNN on Wednesday.
“I am grateful to the leadership of the Department of Defense who answered my call immediately and provided important and valuable information,” she said, although she declined to provide further details about the assistance. how is that.
“I am grateful to say thank you to my government,” added Jackson Lee. “Thank you to my president and thank you to the leadership of various agencies including the Department of Defense for really understanding his situation and working hard to ensure that we proceed with this process. ”
Sami-ullah Safi, Wasi Safi’s brother, who is known as Sami and who worked with the US military in Afghanistan before he became a US citizen in July 2021, celebrated the news. this Wednesday but told CNN he still has questions.
“He came to the same country he fought alongside, and to his surprise he was singled out and treated like a criminal. Is this how the US treats its allies and those who died alongside the Americans in Afghanistan? Sami Safi said. “My military service should have been appreciated. My brother’s service in the military should be appreciated.”
According to a letter sent by a coalition of U.S. veterans groups to President Joe Biden, Wasi Safi “has served faithfully with the United States Special Operations Forces” and “continues to support the resistance.” war of the North against the Taliban” during the US withdrawal in 2021. But as the Taliban consolidate power, it is clear that Wasi Safi will be at high risk because of his work with the activist community especially the United States.
Sami Safi previously told CNN that his brother received “many voicemails” while he was still in Afghanistan saying that his Afghan service members were being captured and killed by the Taliban.
So Wasi Safi began his journey to America. The letter from U.S. veterans groups states that he “walked or rode a bus through 10 countries, surviving torture, looting, and attempts to take his life, seeking asylum.” in the United States from the threat of his life and expect a heroic welcome from his American allies.” Instead, he was arrested by the Border Patrol and has been in their custody ever since.
And while the charges against him have been dropped, the path of Wasi Safi and his brother is far from over.
Cervantes asked Customs and Border Patrol to reduce custody of Wasi Safi before he was transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody. She said the detainee was “quite common,” because CBP “wanted him to be transferred to ICE and do a credential interview about the fear.”
“Right now, we are back and forth between CBP – I am asking CBP to release their detainee and actually grant him an OAR (immigrant status for Afghan migrants) parole. That’s what the United States is most interested in. The Afghans they bring in because I think that’s the right thing to do in this case,” Cervantes said. “However, if they fail to do so, he will be transferred to ICE custody, and we will attempt to free him from ICE.”
She added that she doesn’t “have any doubts” that Wasi Safi will be able to make it through the fear interview reliably.
“We hope to be able to release him soon from all confinement here,” Cervantes said, “and the government will really see not only his service to the United States – Wasi worked.” in the field of counter-terrorism, so he is trying to prevent terrorist attacks. So it’s not just hope they see it, but a threat to his life.
Sami Safi says his brother’s immigration status is the next hurdle he will work on immediately.
“The biggest challenge I have to begin to tackle now is his immigration status – the status America is willing to give him with all his sacrifices,” he said.