Tue, 07 Feb 2023

Afghan soldier seeks asylum after arrest at US-Mexico border

Robert Besser
25 Jan 2023, 13:52 GMT+10

EAGLE PASS, Texas: Abdul Wasi Safi fled Afghanistan, fearing retribution from the Taliban following the August 2021 American withdrawal, but he kept documents detailing his time as an Afghan soldier who worked with the US military.

After making a long journey from Brazil to the US-Mexico border, he hoped the paperwork would secure his asylum in the US.

But after crossing the US-Mexico border near Eagle Pass, Texas in September, Safi was arrested on a federal immigration charge and remains jailed at a detention center in Eden, Texas, fearing his asylum claim may be denied.

Wasi Safi, 27, was an intelligence officer with the Afghan National Security Forces, providing US forces with information on terrorists. However, he was not eligible for a visa to enter the US as he was not directly employed by the US.

Wasi Safi's brother, attorneys, military organizations and a bipartisan group of lawmakers working to free him said his case highlights how America's chaotic military withdrawal is continuing to harm Afghan citizens who helped the US.

If sent back to Afghanistan he could be killed by the Taliban, which has murdered more than 100 Afghan officials and security force members since taking back power, according to a United Nations report.

Jennifer Cervantes, one of Wasi Safi's immigration attorneys, noted, "It is honestly just shameful that we have treated people that helped protect our country this way."

Last week, House Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to pardon Wasi Safi for his immigration related charges, while Republican Congressmen Dan Crenshaw of Texas and Michael Waltz of Florida, as well as more than 20 veterans groups, have also called for Wasi Safi's release while his asylum claim is reviewed.

Meanwhile, the White House has declined to comment on the case and referred questions to the Justice Department and US Customs and Border Protection.

The US Attorney's Office for the Western District of Texas, which is prosecuting the case, has also not responded to requests for comment.

During a news conference on January 17, Pentagon spokesman US Air Force Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said the Defense Department is "supportive of any efforts that we can make to ensure that we are taking appropriate care of" the country's Afghan allies.

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